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Does science make belief in God obsolete? - Comments

John Desclin's Avatar Comment 1 by John Desclin

As it is worded, this question makes no sense to me. I shall first take the time to read the answers of those who feel there is some sense to it.
Why should a belief based on no evidence at all be obsolete or not?

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:03:00 UTC | #161536

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

Comment #170010 by John Desclin

Why should a belief based on no evidence at all be obsolete or not?


People believe there is evidence:

The requirement for a creator.
The appearance of design.
Conversations with internal voices.

and so on.

As science can probably deal completely with all those cases, what gap does it leave for gods?

My view is that yes, science does make belief in gods obsolete. The reasons why people have believed in gods for millenia have been just about conclusively shown to be mistaken.

Theologists may attempt to push gods into the background, beyond whatever reach science currently has, but I would say that makes belief obsolete.

The term "obsolete" is a good one, as it does not mean the existence of gods has to be conclusively disproved; simply shown to be not reasonable, and not useful in an understanding of the world.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:09:00 UTC | #161538

debaser71's Avatar Comment 4 by debaser71

what an oddly phrased question...purposefully so IMO

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:12:00 UTC | #161540

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 3 by riandouglas

Steve Zara: As science can probably deal completely with all those cases, what gap does it leave for gods?

I've got a gap in my teeth, will they fit there?

serious answer delayed due to time constraints

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:12:00 UTC | #161539

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Comment #170013 by riandouglas

According to Terry Pratchett, yes, as there are Small Gods.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Gods

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:14:00 UTC | #161542

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 6 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

This is where Shermer gets it right and Dawkins gets it wrong

On the matter of God's existence, the answer to the question slides toward a yes, depending on how far we extend the sphere of science into the space of theology. If we apply the methods of science to understanding all of nature, where would God be and how would we detect Him or His actions? That's the rub. God is described by most Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent, the creator of all things visible and invisible, an Intelligent Designer capable of constructing the universe, Earth, life, and us. If scientists go in search of such a being�"as Intelligent Design (ID) creationists claim to be doing�"how could we possibly distinguish an omnipotent and omniscient God from an extremely powerful and really smart Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI)? I call this problem Shermer's Last Law (pace Arthur C. Clarke): any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence would be indistinguishable from God.

Here is how the problem breaks down. Biological evolution is glacially slow compared to cultural evolution. Because of this, and the fact that the cosmos is very big and the space between the stars is vast, the probability of making contact with an ETI that is technologically equal to or only slightly more advanced than us is virtually nil. If we ever do encounter the representatives of an ETI, they will be so far ahead of us technologically that they will appear as gods to us. Consider something as relatively simple as DNA. We can already engineer genes after only 50 years of genetic science. An ETI that was, say, only 50,000 years ahead of us would surely be able to construct entire genomes, cells, multi-cellular life, and complex ecosystems. The design of life is, after all, just a technical problem in molecular manipulation. To our bronze-age ancestors who created the great monotheistic religions, the ability to create life was God-like. To our not-so-distant descendents, or to an ETI we might encounter, the ability to create life will be simply a matter of technological skill.

By pursuing a course of scientific inquiry to its natural extension of examining the nature of God, what we will find, if we find anything, is an alien being capable of engineering cells, complex organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, and perhaps even universes. If today we can engineer genes, clone mammals, and manipulate stem cells with science and technologies developed in only the last half century, think of what an ETI could do with 100,000 years of equivalent powers of progress in science and technology. For an ETI who is a million years more advanced than we are, engineering the creation of planets and stars may be entirely possible. And if universes are created out of collapsing black holes�"which some cosmologists think is probable�"it is not inconceivable that a sufficiently advanced ETI could even create a universe.

What would we call an intelligent being capable of engineering a universe, stars, planets, and life? If we knew the underlying science and technology used to do the engineering, we would call it Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence; if we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it God.


Dawkins Gods and Earthlings argument does not obviate God in a sense that would effect a religious person's belief in God in any way.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:15:00 UTC | #161543

terradea's Avatar Comment 7 by terradea

The Christian religion is based on faith. Faith! I don't understand Christians who strive to "prove" this or that ... if they actually did prove anything, faith would no longer be required and the entire religion would be obsolete.

Science, if anything, should make true Christians even stronger because it would force them to have more faith! Think of it: if science absolutely proved that God never existed, the faith required to believe in God would root out the luke-warm believers. Christians, if they really wanted to strengthen their faith and religion, would welcome, even promote science.

The fact that Christians fight science only proves that they have no faith at all.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:18:00 UTC | #161545

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 8 by riandouglas

Shermer via ThoutsonCommonToad: What would we call an intelligent being capable of engineering a universe, stars, planets, and life? If we knew the underlying science and technology used to do the engineering, we would call it Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence; if we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it God.


God perhaps. Certainly not Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Zeus, Thor etc.

Maybe Quetz?

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:20:00 UTC | #161546

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Comment #170017 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

I see no difference between Dawkins and Shermer on this matter.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:22:00 UTC | #161547

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 10 by riandouglas

terradea: Science, if anything, should make true Christians even stronger because it would force them to have more faith! Think of it: if science absolutely proved that God never existed, the faith required to believe in God would root out the luke-warm believers. Christians, if they really wanted to strengthen their faith and religion, would welcome, even promote science.

Could that argument be an explanation for a rise in the number of religious whackjobs fundamentalists in the US specifically, and the world in general?

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:23:00 UTC | #161548

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 11 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

Dawkin's argument:

But now the question arises: In what sense would the god-like aliens not be gods? Answer: In a very important sense. To deserve the name of God, a being would have to have designed more than just a jumbo jet or even a starship. He would have to have designed the universe. And therein lies a fundamental contradiction. Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable.


There is no contradiction whatsoever. Complexity is ruled out as the ultimate first cause Yes, but he seems to not be able to take his own argument that one step further, as Shermer has done, and incidentally I did. It seems strange because it is so obvious. It almost makes a mockery of the whole argument.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:26:00 UTC | #161550

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 12 by riandouglas

Pinker from the link: Start with the origin of the world. Today no honest and informed person can maintain that the universe came into being a few thousand years ago and assumed its current form in six days

But i've talked with many of these people. They claim to be honest. They claim they're informed. Yet they still go for the 6 day creation.
Wait, misinformed is quite different to informed isnt it?
My mistake, carry on all.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:26:00 UTC | #161551

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 13 by riandouglas

ThoughtOnCommonToad, Shermer is ascribing possible universe creating abilities to his aliens. In this regard, his argument would seem to converge with Dawkins'

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:28:00 UTC | #161552

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 14 by Cartomancer

I think that's where Shermer and Dawkins are using different definitions of "god". Shermer is taking the "creative ability" as the defining characteristic, Dawkins the "uncreated" status. I must say I think Dawkins is closer to what we in the West at least generally think of as the defining characteristic of a god, but it's pretty much a pointless semantic argument anyway.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:33:00 UTC | #161555

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 15 by mordacious1

Something bothers me about all this. Yes, I enjoyed reading most of the essays, but it seems to be an attempt by the big TF to give their opinions and the opinions of theologians and god-believing scientists more credibility by matching up their essays with scientists who are in the game for pure scientific reasoning.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:37:00 UTC | #161558

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 16 by Border Collie

Although I don't have "the" answer, our questions seems inadequate to the current situation. I think our questions must become more intelligent, larger or we just need to stop attempts at answering. So many of these simplistic questions beg simplistic answers and there aren't any simplistic answers. We've let ourselves fall into the trap of attempting to answer these simplistic, legalistic type questions with the same type answers. This Q & A type intercourse is designed only to create contention and sell soap on TV. It isn't designed for rational conversation, debate, whatever. Everytime I get one of those "When did you stop beating your wife, Mr. Smith?" sort of questions, I simply tell the questioner that I'll have to think about it.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:43:00 UTC | #161562

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 17 by Cartomancer

I didn't notice this was a Templeton Foundation piece at first. Hmm, I smell bias too now - if only because they'll all have to pack up and go home if they come to the correct answer - which is yes.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:52:00 UTC | #161566

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 19 by Steve Zara

Comment #170036 by Border Collie

So many of these simplistic questions beg simplistic answers and there aren't any simplistic answers.


I tend to think that there are, and most of the answers are "No":

Do we need gods to explain consciousness: No.
Do we need god as a "necessary being" to explain creation: No.
Do we need god to explain the origin of life: No.
Do we need god to explain how complex life appeared: No.
Do we need god to explain why people feel in contact with god: No.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:54:00 UTC | #161568

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 18 by Agrajag

3. Comment #170013 by riandouglas on April 27, 2008 at 9:12 am

I've got a gap in my teeth, will they fit there?

If you get a poppy seed stuck there, you'll have *two* gaps! A new field is born: "dental theology" :-)
Ste5e

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:54:00 UTC | #161567

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Comment #170020 by riandouglas

I would say that gods need that extra bit of magic to earn the title: No proven supernatural nature, you don't get to call yourself the big "G".

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 08:56:00 UTC | #161569

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 21 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

I would say that gods need that extra bit of magic to earn the title: No proven supernatural nature, you don't get to call yourself the big "G".

Supernatural? A power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces. An alien could conceivably hear prayers and interfere in our universe. Doesn't have to be supernatural to do the things god is supposed to do.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:04:00 UTC | #161571

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

Supernatural? A power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces. An alien could conceivably hear prayers and interfere in our universe. Doesn't have to be supernatural to do the things god is supposed to do.


I would say that supernatural is about a power that does violate or go beyond natural forces.

I consider that pretty hard to demonstrate, if not impossible.

This is why I hold the perhaps controversial view that the existence of gods is impossible to demonstrate. It could always be a really clever alien lying.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:08:00 UTC | #161573

agn's Avatar Comment 23 by agn

The strangest contortions are made in order to save religion's actuality:

Sapolsky, for example, thinks that religion makes good ecstasy while science does not.


He could instead have said that people should have more sex.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:09:00 UTC | #161574

Machinus's Avatar Comment 24 by Machinus

Fuck templeton. They only ask the most misleading questions.

Belief in god is obsolete A PRIORI. An intelligent person should completely reject stupid and ridiculous ideas regardless of the presence of good ones. Science makes belief in God LAUGHABLE.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:13:00 UTC | #161578

Corylus's Avatar Comment 25 by Corylus

In the words of the great philosopher, Vicky Pollard,

Yeah but, no but, yeah but..

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:14:00 UTC | #161579

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 26 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

This is why I hold the perhaps controversial view that the existence of gods is impossible to demonstrate. It could always be a really clever alien lying.

You assuming God is supernatural. What human religions have conceived of God don't have to be supernatural. An incredible alien could answer prayers create universes etc. Why would this not satisfy you as being a god or gods.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:16:00 UTC | #161581

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

Comment #170058 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

You assuming God is supernatural.


People tell me he is.

What human religions have conceived of God don't have to be supernatural.


Indeed.

An incredible alien could answer prayers create universes etc.


Sure.

Why would this not satisfy you as being a god or gods.


Because people have told me gods are supernatural. If there are things that seem to be gods, but aren't supernatural, then they don't fit the definition.

I'm not going to worship just anyone.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:27:00 UTC | #161587

infidel_michael's Avatar Comment 28 by infidel_michael

Does science make (insert anything unverifiable) obsolete?

Of course not, there will be always a "room for faith" -> for any nonsense people like to believe.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:34:00 UTC | #161592

Rational_G's Avatar Comment 29 by Rational_G

Science has destroyed the notion of God. It was on flimsy footing to begin with and science has finished the job. There is no need to postulate the supernatural.

Oh yeah, and screw Templeton and his religious soft sell.

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:38:00 UTC | #161596

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 30 by AmericanGodless

Shermer: "[I]f we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it God."
Dawkins: "Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable."
ThoughtsonCommonToad: "[Dawkins] seems to not be able to take his own argument that one step further, as Shermer has done, and incidentally I did."


I must confess that I don't understand the "extra step" that Toad sees. Shermer is saying that if we see a creative force new to us, and inexplicable within our current knowledge, we would (should?) call it God. Dawkins is saying* that our experience with similar past human beliefs about such forces, and the record of science in finding natural explanations, should caution us against our concluding that it is a "skyhook" before thoroughly investigating the possiblility (probability) that it has actually been produced by evolution or some other natural "crane" (to use Dennett's metaphor).

Toad is right that Dawkins' argument does not obviate God in a sense that would effect a religious person's belief, as they have never learned the deep lesson of evolution. But "Shermer's Last Law" (any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence would be indistinguishable from God), in my opinion, sounds like "if you don't see a natural explanation at first, don't expect that you ever will." Unless I am missing something, the extra step is to forget everything we have learned, abandon science, and retreat into worship.

* Edit: (By pointing to the statistical improbability of the new "god", and thus suggesting that, if it exists, it is highly probable that it came to existence by a naturally probable pathway, not a miraculous pathway.)

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 09:39:00 UTC | #161597