Question of Science vs. Religion in history

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Question of Science vs. Religion in history

I'm writing an article dealing with the merits of science vs. religion, and I've stumped myself.  I can't think of a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and religion had the better scientific answer.  I don't even mean the ultimately correct answer -- I mean the more correct answer at the time.  (For example, many of the observations of the cosmos were incorrect, but were closer to being correct than the church's view that the earth was the center of the universe.)

I'm not trying to make any sort of point here.  I really want to know if there has ever been an instance of the church being more correct than scientists on any empirical issue.

 


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...Well, prior to game

...Well, prior to game theory (and early such concepts), religion arguably had 'better' arguments than mainstream classical philosophers for explaining human morality (...the idea that we're good because someone told us to be good has at least a grain of truth to it, opposed to the alternative theories, ranging from, 'We're good because goodness is an autonomous process, like going to the bathroom,' to astrological explanations).

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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Hmm... maybe it's

Hmm... maybe it's philosophical quibbling, but isn't God just an autonomous process that arbitrarily assigns morality?  Did astrology ever profess to explain the cause of morality, or just to describe why certain people exhibit different moral traits in different ways?  I'm not aware of an astrological explanation for the cause of human morality.

To me, all of the explanations appear to be equally wrong.  I don't think there was ever a time when philosophers doubted that being taught to act morally was one cause of moral action, was there?

 

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Any church being right?

  Perhaps the only time is when Gregor Mendal studied and described genetic inharitence. Well ahead of secular scientists. He was a "cloistered monk" at the time.

 Another example might  be the scholors who put together the Gregorian calender.

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The opposite of what you asked for :)

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/20366/book-of-mormon-changes

This is the opposite of what you asked for, but it's really cool.  Science makes religion change!

Remember how you figured out there is no Santa? Well, their god is just like Santa. They just haven’t figured out he’s not real yet.


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Quote:Perhaps the only time

Quote:
Perhaps the only time is when Gregor Mendal studied and described genetic inharitence. Well ahead of secular scientists. He was a "cloistered monk" at the time.

Maybe I didn't explain the question well enough.  I am not talking about whether or not the scientist was also a theist.  I'm talking about a scientific discovery that was less correct than the non-scientific explanation.  Genetic inheritance is the scientific explanation for shared traits.  It is no less scientific because a theist followed the scientific method instead of an atheist.  The church had no religiously inspired explanation for the passing on of genetic traits, at least none that I'm aware of.

In other words, Mendel didn't describe genetic inheritance after praying very hard.  He described it after empirical observations, hypothesizing, and testing.  That's science.

Quote:
Another example might  be the scholors who put together the Gregorian calender.

Again, this is an example of a theist using the scientific method.  The calendar was built upon observations of the heavens, not prayer or divine revelation.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Quote:Hmm... maybe it's

Quote:
Hmm... maybe it's philosophical quibbling, but isn't God just an autonomous process that arbitrarily assigns morality?

Well, yes. In the literal sense, God might also be seen as a sort of parental figure telling us what to do and not to do. If we're willing to metaphorically 'fiddle' with that notion a little bit, it at least vaguely resembles a couple of simplified core concepts that we've fleshed-out in modern science.

Quote:
Did astrology ever profess to explain the cause of morality, or just to describe why certain people exhibit different moral traits in different ways?  I'm not aware of an astrological explanation for the cause of human morality.

Astrology 'teaches' us that the way we behave, and the way we're going to interact with the world, is based on planetary alignment. To me, that seems like a morality argument / system (and one that is absolutely dead wrong. In contrast with the church's idea, where we can at least see some basic forms from modern game theory).

Quote:
To me, all of the explanations appear to be equally wrong.  I don't think there was ever a time when philosophers doubted that being taught to act morally was one cause of moral action, was there?

I agree; they were both incorrect. But you said you were looking for examples where the relgious might've been 'more' correct than scientists / philosophers. This one simply sprung to mind.

I don't think such a time existed either; but there was certainly a time where mainstream secular philosophers supplemented such an idea with astrology. Again, in this way, the church would've been 'more' correct; education passed down from experienced figures is closer to the right track than planetary alignment (...of course, I'm taking certain liberties in favor of the church here. Geez, it's tough to make a case in their favor. Sticking out tongue )

 

Perhaps I'm simply wrong. Intuitively, this just struck me as one instance where religion may have been slightly ahead of mainstream 'science'.

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"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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Sorry Hamby

       You didn't use the word prayer in the first post;  I'm far too much of an athiest to consider prayer has anything but a big waste of time.  

       Then you might try slanting the article towards the times when the church had to use science to solve their questions  i.e. the calender, 

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I'm still working this out,

I'm still working this out, so don't think that I'm pressing one side or the other.  I'm at a bit of a disadvantage because I understand that all empirical truths about the world have been arrived at through observation, hypothesis, and sometimes testing.  That's science, regardless of what it was attributed to.  I'm trying to figure out how to explain that within and without the church, religious revelation is batting .000 in the field of verifiable accuracy.  One way of doing this is to show that there has never been a time when the mythological explanation for something was closer to the truth than a concurrent scientific explanation.

I'm afraid the whole thing will dissolve into semantics.  If a theist were to argue with me about it, they would use my own argument against me.  They'd say, "You're loading the question by insisting that anything verifiably true is science, and anything wrong is religious."  I'd respond by saying that it's not me loading the question.  It's simply the observation that everything I'm aware of that has been verified as true has been arrived at through some combination of observation, pattern recognition, hypothesizing, and testing.  That is science.

I'm simply not aware of anyone who ever guessed correctly without doing some scientific observation first.

Granted, I'm taking it as read that an "answered prayer" would be a guess, but I don't even have to word it that way.  I just can't think of anything that didn't involve science and turned out to be true.

Kevin, I see what you're saying, and I guess my main sticking point is that the observation of moral instruction hardly constitutes a scientific theory.  It's just an observation.  "Gee, Bishop... when we tell people they'll burn in hell if they suck a dick, they don't suck as many dicks.  It seems that telling people what to do sometimes works."  It seems like astrology doesn't attempt to explain why morality exists.  It only explains why some people are more moral than others.  Maybe that's too nitpicky.  I dunno.  In any case, I don't think either thought process counts as scientific in the modern sense because nobody had any idea that human existence could be explained as a natural process, so there were naturally no scientific explanations of morality.

 

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I don't think you'll find

I don't think you'll find what you are looking for Hamby because your stipulation that religion have the 'better scientific answer' assumes the scientific method anyway. How is a theist to prove to you that an intuitive religious explanation is the correct one without invoking a scientific explanation to back it up? Surely a theistic explanation could only be as correct as a scientific explanation, not more correct, if either are to be correct at all, right?

 

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Religion, "God done it"

Religion, "God done it"

Science, "How?"

       


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Hambydammit wrote:I'm

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm writing an article dealing with the merits of science vs. religion, and I've stumped myself.  I can't think of a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and religion had the better scientific answer.  I don't even mean the ultimately correct answer -- I mean the more correct answer at the time.  (For example, many of the observations of the cosmos were incorrect, but were closer to being correct than the church's view that the earth was the center of the universe.)

I'm not trying to make any sort of point here.  I really want to know if there has ever been an instance of the church being more correct than scientists on any empirical issue.

 

Quote:
[In trying to write] an article dealing with the merits of science vs. religion, I've stumped myself.  I [could not] think of a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and religion had the better answer.  I don't even mean the ultimately correct answer -- I mean the more correct answer.

This can be the first sentence of the article you are trying to write.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Quote:I don't think you'll

Quote:
I don't think you'll find what you are looking for Hamby because your stipulation that religion have the 'better scientific answer' assumes the scientific method anyway. How is a theist to prove to you that an intuitive religious explanation is the correct one without invoking a scientific explanation to back it up? Surely a theistic explanation could only be as correct as a scientific explanation, not more correct, if either are to be correct at all, right?

Have you been hacking into my computer?  What you're talking about is the end of what I'm doing.  I'm trying to build a case towards this conclusion by using examples from history.  Essentially, I'm dealing with the question of why we would ever trust religious explanations in the first place, but I can't just jump straight into it.  I have to set up the conclusion with lots of examples.  This is for high school level readers, not scholars.

Incidentally, I've got the conclusion written, but I'm having trouble finding ways to illustrate it with examples.  The conclusion is so obvious to me that I'm having trouble imagining what it would be like to not understand it.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:I'm

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm writing an article dealing with the merits of science vs. religion, and I've stumped myself.  I can't think of a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and religion had the better scientific answer.  I don't even mean the ultimately correct answer -- I mean the more correct answer at the time.  (For example, many of the observations of the cosmos were incorrect, but were closer to being correct than the church's view that the earth was the center of the universe.)

I'm not trying to make any sort of point here.  I really want to know if there has ever been an instance of the church being more correct than scientists on any empirical issue.

You're not going to find one. Religion isn't about empiricism. Religion's about sociology. It's a binding agent, a means of retaining cohesion among a group once it gets too large for ties of blood to keep it close-knit. Claiming to provide answers is only the method religion uses to achieve this end; it's not at all concerned about the veracity of those answers, nor (for its purposes) should it be. After all, if religion is limited only to things it can confirm, then it cannot ensure the solidarity of the tribe in the face of potentially more advantageous economic, sociological, or technological developments, which is its primary function.

If anything, what you're doing is setting yourself up to be accused of straw man tactics. It's like asking "Has there ever been a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and science provided a better explanation of our ultimate purpose and the nature of God?" Science can't provide an explanation for the nature of God. Science can't prove or disprove the existence of God, and so all aspects of God remain unobservable and untestable. Science's answer to God is "Not Applicable". Logic, which is not science, but one of the underpinnings of it, can lead us to conclusions about God, but since they're untestable, they're not science.

So, you're not gonna find an instance of religion providing a better empirical answer, ever, simply because it's not what religion does, not the function religion actually serves/served. It's like trying to ask the arithmetic question "Blue + Sound = ?"

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I realize that my question

I realize that my question is not well formed, and I realize that religion, by definition, is non-scientific.  My main objective here is to avoid getting called out on some obscure case where religion guessed right based on prayer or divine revelation, and science had it completely wrong.

I don't like using sweeping generalizations unless I'm really secure in them.  If I'm going to say that religion has never gotten a leg up on science, I want to make sure that it hasn't.  It's not that finding an instance of religion being correct is going to hurt my argument.  In fact, I'd almost rather find one example.  It would be really funny (I think) to be able to "give religion credit where it's due" and admit that fifteen hundred years ago, religion guessed right about one thing.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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The only thing that pops

The only thing that pops into my mind from a empirical point of view is that the Bible portrays a universe with a beginning.  Science, or a long time, held to the notion of a steady state universe, if I'm not mistaken.

"With its enduring appeal to the search for truth, philosophy has the great responsibility of forming thought and culture; and now it must strive resolutely to recover its original vocation." Pope John Paul II


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 I think marching forward

 I think marching forward under the banner of 'Science!' is the issue.  From our perspective looking backwards, science got everything right and competing ideas got it wrong.  That's because we took their theories and proved them.  Remember, the version of the Scientific Method used today is fairly young.

 

At one time it was considered scientifically viable to attempt to turn lead to gold.  At one time scientists believed large objects fell faster than small objects because the larger ones were 'happier' about getting closer to the place 'earth' settled.  Scientists believed in a clockwork universe, scientists once believed that all physical principles could be understood as a single unifying principle (or, in this case, still do).  We will only call what they believe 'science' if their beliefs bear out the results they expect (and so far it seems they do).

 

I don't know what religion said about alchemy, or astronomy, but it very well may have condemned it.  Probably not because it was 'bad research' as much as it was temption by the devil.

 

You're question would probably get more responses if you went to a religiously oriented forum and posted the question there.  I would love to see the responses there.

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totus_tuus wrote:The only

totus_tuus wrote:

The only thing that pops into my mind from a empirical point of view is that the Bible portrays a universe with a beginning.  Science, or a long time, held to the notion of a steady state universe, if I'm not mistaken.

Yes, I remember learning steady state in school, but even now that we have the big bang theory, concepts such as the multiverse or neverending bangs and contractions are still gaining interest. This current universe as we know it, seems to have a beginning, but our understanding of time makes understanding that beginning almost impossible to conceptualize at this point.


 

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Hambydammit wrote:I'm

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm writing an article dealing with the merits of science vs. religion, and I've stumped myself.  I can't think of a single instance in history where science and religion clashed and religion had the better scientific answer.  I don't even mean the ultimately correct answer -- I mean the more correct answer at the time.  (For example, many of the observations of the cosmos were incorrect, but were closer to being correct than the church's view that the earth was the center of the universe.)

I'm not trying to make any sort of point here.  I really want to know if there has ever been an instance of the church being more correct than scientists on any empirical issue.

 

These 2 links are the closest I can come.

1- In 1277 Bishop Etienne Tempier was ordered to stop the propagation of ancient Greek science and ideas put forth by Arab thinkers such as Averroes. The bishop put together a council and issued 219 forbidden views.

This included "if something has been established as contrary to nature, or physically impossible, then not even God can bring it about. This was more than just a denial of miracles. It reflected two basic Greek ideas: that human reason could deduce immutable laws of nature, and that the gods were as bound by these as anyone else."

This  " prompted Christian philosophers and scientists to explore all sorts of possibilities that dogmatic Aristotelians had ruled out."

see: http://www.economist.com/diversions/millennium/displayStory.cfm?story_id=346780

2-Clement of Alexandria apparently advocated healthy diets for the following reason: "Thus Clement urged Christians to keep bodily appetites under control. On the question of food, Clement said simple food was healthy, but that overeating spoiled digestion and was therefore bad."

see:http://www.dacb.org/stories/egypt/clement_of_alex.html

I know of few other possibilities except perhaps in ancient civilizations such as Assyria or Babylon. In these societies science and religion were intertwined so I don't know how you could separate them to point out the errors of science vs religion.

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Thanks for the input,

Thanks for the input, folks.  Your thoughts are helping me to solidify my article.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:Thanks for

Hambydammit wrote:

Thanks for the input, folks.  Your thoughts are helping me to solidify my article.

 

Also, don't forget that during Newton's time, the religious belief that the universe and  time itself had a beginning were more correct than Newton's  assumptions that time was  eternal and the universe unchanging.


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theotherguy wrote:Also,

theotherguy wrote:

Also, don't forget that during Newton's time, the religious belief that the universe and  time itself had a beginning were more correct than Newton's  assumptions that time was  eternal and the universe unchanging.

Yeah, that's kinda the same thing that totus said, but I'm not sure that reflects an understanding of Newton's work (which was mathematical) and the statement "in the beginning." Sure, just saying "in the beginning" means "before there was anything", but scientists still don't believe there was a point before which there was nothing. The big bang doesn't describe a "nothing" point. There's even a fair amount of evidence that the universe had a state before the big bang.

Newton, using math, set out rules that the universe followed, and he had no reason to believe that they had changed since God created the universe in the first place (he was a devout believer). There was no reason for Newton to worry about the origin of the universe, because that was covered: God created it. But give the man a break, he invented classical mechanics! His work also had nothing to do with the origin of the universe, its timing, or its development. He speculated, but his actual math had nothing to do with that. It's therefore disingenuous to say "Newton had it wrong" when Newton didn't even deal with that aspect of the physical (except in speculative notes).

The religious view was never ahead of the curve on that one, no.

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Quote:I'm not trying to make

Quote:
I'm not trying to make any sort of point here.  I really want to know if there has ever been an instance of the church being more correct than scientists on any empirical issue.

Hamby(dammit),

Even when churches get these sorts of things right, they do so by accident. The dogmatic proclamations which form the basis of any religious creed have nothing to do with empiricism. They are not conclusions drawn from data, observed and tested against alternatives. They are simply DECLARED.

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Quote:The dogmatic

Quote:
The dogmatic proclamations which form the basis of any religious creed have nothing to do with empiricism. They are not conclusions drawn from data, observed and tested against alternatives. They are simply DECLARED.

Yes... like that whole "center of the universe" thing.. that was totally not based upon empirical data.

Now.. there are a lot of loaded terms in this statement.. so, to qualify, some of the statements made by churches may have "nothing to do with empiricism," but I find it to believe that all of them (throughout all of time) had not.


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:Now..

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Now.. there are a lot of loaded terms in this statement.. so, to qualify, some of the statements made by churches may have "nothing to do with empiricism," but I find it to believe that all of them (throughout all of time) had not.

Well, let's see...

How many examples can be found of religions forming their theology or core doctrines based on empirical investigation of the natural world, as opposed to declaring "Our God / Priest-King / Sacred Scroll / Voice from Above / etc says thus-and-so."

How many examples are there of a prophet/founder coming in from the wilderness and telling people, "Well, I've spent the last X years studying mankind and our common perdicament. I had some ideas as to what might be behind it all and I tested them. Here's how I put these ideas to the test and here are the results. I invite everyone to do the same tests because I think you'll get the same results. If and when you do, you'll see as I have that we are the creations of deity X, for reasons Y, and should live according to Z."

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Such absurdly modern expressions from the mouth of Abraham, Zoroaster, Paul or Mohammed? Ridiculous. But that's the point.

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Yep, religion is silly , I

Yep, religion is silly , I AM GOD AS YOU as everything is, so now what ?  

  .... this is not actually funny at this time, but laughing it off helps  ..... when ya can !


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Quote:How many examples are

Quote:
How many examples are there of a prophet/founder coming in from the wilderness and telling people, "Well, I've spent the last X years studying mankind and our common perdicament. I had some ideas as to what might be behind it all and I tested them. Here's how I put these ideas to the test and here are the results. I invite everyone to do the same tests because I think you'll get the same results. If and when you do, you'll see as I have that we are the creations of deity X, for reasons Y, and should live according to Z."



Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This em·pir·i·cal    Audio Help   /ɛmˈpɪrɪkəl/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[em-pir-i-kuhl] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –adjective


1.    derived from or guided by experience or experiment.


2.    depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine.


3.    provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.



 It may not happen all that often, but what you suggested in your example is not necessary to establish in order to say that "much of biblical statements are based upon empirical data."  But.. seeing as the point I am making is very nuanced (depends on your understanding of "statements" and "based upon," etc), I will not continue it anymore than this:



Statement I addressed was "religious statements (or "dogma" and "doctrine&quotEye-wink have nothing to do with empiricism."  I responded by saying "not true, much of it, I'd suspect, was based upon empiricism, i.e., experience and/or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, e.g., the earth is the center of the universe."  My contention was limited to "some religious statements" not all.  As you correctly suggest, there are some statements, IMO, that may not have an empirical basis... such as, "God loves" or "Hell exists."



 


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speaking of not wanting to

speaking of not wanting to continue any more than this... I'd just like to point out that every time I can remember a theist claiming that their point was "very nuanced" it ended up being "very wrong."

 

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Quote:speaking of not

Quote:
speaking of not wanting to continue any more than this... I'd just like to point out that every time I can remember a theist claiming that their point was "very nuanced" it ended up being "very wrong."

Sticking out tongue

I meant more that it wasn't very important for me to argue.. didn't matter much in other words. Especially in light of the fact that Eloise made a similar argument in a past thread that last 300 or so posts... and still ended up with little concession.

I suppose I could continue to argue the point.. I am right after all. Smiling


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This question makes me think of the Jewish religion's stipulations on food and cleanliness.

That seemed to be arbitrary rules, but helped those ancient folks not succumb to trichinosis and such, yes?


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BrainFromArous

BrainFromArous wrote:

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Now.. there are a lot of loaded terms in this statement.. so, to qualify, some of the statements made by churches may have "nothing to do with empiricism," but I find it to believe that all of them (throughout all of time) had not.

Well, let's see...

How many examples can be found of religions forming their theology or core doctrines based on empirical investigation of the natural world, as opposed to declaring "Our God / Priest-King / Sacred Scroll / Voice from Above / etc says thus-and-so."

How many examples are there of a prophet/founder coming in from the wilderness and telling people, "Well, I've spent the last X years studying mankind and our common perdicament. I had some ideas as to what might be behind it all and I tested them. Here's how I put these ideas to the test and here are the results. I invite everyone to do the same tests because I think you'll get the same results. If and when you do, you'll see as I have that we are the creations of deity X, for reasons Y, and should live according to Z."

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Such absurdly modern expressions from the mouth of Abraham, Zoroaster, Paul or Mohammed? Ridiculous. But that's the point.

Actually, all things considered, I wouldn't expect them to say that even and especially if it were the case. "Hey, guys! Listen, I just went out and did a lot of work and came up with some shit you don't believe, but trust me, it's better than what you think!" Let's face it, when folks like Galileo and Copernicus tried it, they didn't get embraced. What would make you think people in even less developed societies would be different?

Doubtless, things like the kosher dietary laws actually came about as a result of some of the more learned priests having an awareness that pork etc couldn't be safely cooked in the transient conditions of nomadic life, but who's gonna believe them if they just say 'trust me'? Instead, you say 'GOD SAID SO' and nobody questions it. While the rationale they pass down may be declarative and without scientific merit, I can't see the behavioral codes being arbitrary. I think it's far more likely that they were carefully considered, and then the divine fiat was just used to cut off debate and dissent.

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Quote:This question makes me

Quote:

This question makes me think of the Jewish religion's stipulations on food and cleanliness.

That seemed to be arbitrary rules, but helped those ancient folks not succumb to trichinosis and such, yes?

That's the prevalent theory, as far as I know.  One must assume, I think, that these laws were not arbitrarily set down precisely because they have such a specific and relevant benefit.  Perhaps it's a little much to say that they scientifically reached the conclusion that dirty pork causes illness, but clearly somebody somewhere noticed that people who ate pigs got sick a lot, and that drinking water with piss in it made you feel bad.  In the strictest sense, this is data gathering, pattern recognition, and hypothesis formation.  That's science.

Eloise stole my thunder earlier by pointing out that any empirical conclusion must have been reached through scientific inquiry.  I was hoping to get a few more suggestions before the well was tainted.  The good news, though, is that the Jewish food and cleanliness laws are an awesome example, and I think I'm going to use them in the article.

 

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Aporkalypse Now

About the pigs...

What is the confidence level of historical scholarship that these dietary laws were based, even accidentally, on any considerations of sanitation and health?

Was avoidance of diseases like trichinosis a desired outcome of such proscriptions or an epiphenomenon?

The purity laws went far beyond pork, after all. There were all manner of "forbidden" and "unclean" things like mixing types of cloth, socializing with menstruating women and - to take another food example - shellfish. Don't forget rabbits.

The OT has other examples of bizarre categorical assignment, beyond Leviticus. Genesis speaks of cattle as separate from other "beasts of the field" for example. Why? Were the ancients presciently describing the dairy industry?

I strongly recommend Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo by Mary Douglas for a very good consideration of the issues involved here.

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~sigh~Dammit... my reading

~sigh~

Dammit... my reading list is sooooo freaking long as it is, and that sounds really interesting.  I don't think I will live long enough to read everything I want to read.

 

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Tell me about it! I'll never

Tell me about it! I'll never even get around reading Price's books.

Ok, short form: She looked at the purity category assignments and thought, "These only seem arbitrary but something is going on here. Some pattern not immediately apparent but extant nonetheless."

She struck upon the pattern of what we might call "rules violations." Examples...

Pigs - have cloven hooves but they do not graze. They root in the soil.

Shellfish - are water creatures but do not have fins or scales.

Menstruation - involves blood, which should be inside, flowing out in the absence of known or visible wounds.

Homosexuality - is men having sex, but not with women.

And so on. In each case some "rule" is being broken regarding how the ancients thought the world was structured and should function. So the rule-breakers became "unclean" things, to be shunned lest they perhaps further confuse and disorganize the world and reduce all to chaos.

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Hambydammit wrote:Dammit...

Hambydammit wrote:
Dammit... my reading list is sooooo freaking long as it is, and that sounds really interesting.  I don't think I will live long enough to read everything I want to read.

And so it goes. I was in mind to suggest that a good deal of the ancients astronomical observations might be apposite. The difficulty with your thesis being (as pointed out by many) that science tends to follow religion.

However, in the observation of the 'heavens' it is clearly science, albiet not by that name, which has lead the way. One might instance Stonehenge and the numerous standing stones throughout europe or Ulansey's theory of Mithraism - science leads religion?

Just some ideas.

I take a skeptical approach, but I am not sure whether that is correct!


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improbable wrote:And so it

improbable wrote:
And so it goes. I was in mind to suggest that a good deal of the ancients astronomical observations might be apposite. The difficulty with your thesis being (as pointed out by many) that science tends to follow religion.

Since "science" (the way we think about it now) is only very recent, then it would have to follow religion simply because it's at the end of a long, dark age. It also takes a lot less work to say "ghosts did it" than to observe, take notes, observe again. Simply by the constraints of time, science has to follow religion. The ancients' astronomical observations were definitely made in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and their math was fairly well developed. But then the religion came and squashed that.

improbable wrote:
However, in the observation of the 'heavens' it is clearly science, albiet not by that name, which has lead the way. One might instance Stonehenge and the numerous standing stones throughout europe or Ulansey's theory of Mithraism - science leads religion?

You mean like the Mayans building an understanding of math, and then incorporating it into their religious rituals?

The only problem I have with the word "leads" in all this is that religion doesn't really inspire curiosity. Religious ideas are more along the lines of band-aid explanations that science may disprove later.

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HisWillness wrote:improbable

HisWillness wrote:

improbable wrote:
And so it goes. I was in mind to suggest that a good deal of the ancients astronomical observations might be apposite. The difficulty with your thesis being (as pointed out by many) that science tends to follow religion.

Since "science" (the way we think about it now) is only very recent, then it would have to follow religion simply because it's at the end of a long, dark age. It also takes a lot less work to say "ghosts did it" than to observe, take notes, observe again. Simply by the constraints of time, science has to follow religion. The ancients' astronomical observations were definitely made in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and their math was fairly well developed. But then the religion came and squashed that.

improbable wrote:
However, in the observation of the 'heavens' it is clearly science, albiet not by that name, which has lead the way. One might instance Stonehenge and the numerous standing stones throughout europe or Ulansey's theory of Mithraism - science leads religion?

You mean like the Mayans building an understanding of math, and then incorporating it into their religious rituals?

The only problem I have with the word "leads" in all this is that religion doesn't really inspire curiosity. Religious ideas are more along the lines of band-aid explanations that science may disprove later.

Actually, Will, try this slightly different way of looking at it:

Early men (individuals, I'm talking about) try to understand the world around 'em. They come up with some answers through observation, but can't really explain the 'why' behind it. The more successful ones rise to positions of prominence, where their view of 'how things work' and 'how you should act' are always going to be questioned. So, at different times in different places, they hit on the same solution, a solution parents have been using forever: "Because I said so". Of course, they're human, so that's not going to fly... so they declare it's not THEM saying it, it's a god saying it.

God of the gaps is built in from the beginning... the band-aid explanations aren't really attempting to be a final answer so much as a 'Shoosh and lemme think about it more'. The problem is, the original thinkers never get to fill in all of the gaps, and soon the band-aids are the focus, with the math, cosmology, etc being looked at as evidence that the band-aids are Truth.

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BrainFromArous wrote:About

BrainFromArous wrote:

About the pigs...

What is the confidence level of historical scholarship that these dietary laws were based, even accidentally, on any considerations of sanitation and health?

Was avoidance of diseases like trichinosis a desired outcome of such proscriptions or an epiphenomenon?

The purity laws went far beyond pork, after all. There were all manner of "forbidden" and "unclean" things like mixing types of cloth, socializing with menstruating women and - to take another food example - shellfish. Don't forget rabbits.

At least for the food ones you mentioned, the dietary reasons may still apply.

There are plenty of shellfish that are poisonous sometimes, which would mean a stricture against eating them ever would save you from possible poisoning.

As for rabbits, they present a very tricky problem: rabbit starvation, which is a pain in the ass when rabbits oblige us by breeding so damn fast.  So even if they didn't incorrectly think that rabbits chewed cud, it's an understandable reason to forbid it (since that would be easier than having to explain "thou shalt not eat rabbit to exclusion" ).

 

 

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Quote:Ok, short form: She

Quote:

Ok, short form: She looked at the purity category assignments and thought, "These only seem arbitrary but something is going on here. Some pattern not immediately apparent but extant nonetheless."

She struck upon the pattern of what we might call "rules violations." Examples...

Pigs - have cloven hooves but they do not graze. They root in the soil.

Shellfish - are water creatures but do not have fins or scales.

Menstruation - involves blood, which should be inside, flowing out in the absence of known or visible wounds.

Homosexuality - is men having sex, but not with women.

And so on. In each case some "rule" is being broken regarding how the ancients thought the world was structured and should function. So the rule-breakers became "unclean" things, to be shunned lest they perhaps further confuse and disorganize the world and reduce all to chaos.

Hmm.  At first glance, this seems rather arbitrary.  Speaking from pure epistemology, anything is necessarily defined by its limits, so given a universe of discourse, it doesn't matter if we say everything that something is not, or simply what something is.  I can just as easily say that shellfish are water creatures that do have shells and do belong to the family Haliotidae.

What we're essentially doing here is getting into the evolution of ethics, and from what I'm familiar with, I can say that ethics is as much about what we do as what we don't do.  The whole thing started when our ancestors unwittingly discovered the nonzero-sum nature of reciprocal altruism.  It's all fine and good to live in a tent with you and not kill you in your sleep, but unless I also contribute some work to our mutual benefit, we're not social creatures.  We're just in a bad movie about cowboys kissing.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:What we're

Hambydammit wrote:
What we're essentially doing here is getting into the evolution of ethics, and from what I'm familiar with, I can say that ethics is as much about what we do as what we don't do.  The whole thing started when our ancestors unwittingly discovered the nonzero-sum nature of reciprocal altruism.  It's all fine and good to live in a tent with you and not kill you in your sleep, but unless I also contribute some work to our mutual benefit, we're not social creatures.  We're just in a bad movie about cowboys kissing.

 

There's a weird and unfortunate division between philosophical ethics and actual human ethics.  I was able to sit in on a lunch between a philosopher and a psychologist discussing ethical frameworks.  The philosopher was interested in theory and people's choice to adhere to systems of ethics, the psychologist was interested in only determining why people made moral decisions (well, really he wasn't interested in the philosopher at all). But what it came to was the psychologist studied how people make ethical decisions, and the philosopher on grander schemas.   

 

What's interesting is that most religious ethic theory seems to reflect is the ethical systems of childrenunder 8 years old...  the 'do it or you will be punished' ethical system.  Many of the more modern philosophical systems (social contract, utalitarianism, whatnot) reflect the more matured human, where most people act in a way to benefit ither individuals (altruism, for the lack of a better term).  

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It depends on what you

It depends on what you qualify science as.  Ancient science and ancient religion are not the same as they are defined today.  They were quantified differently, and in many cases, coexisted similarly.  In antiquity there were schools of science, or you could say epistimonikos.  But this shares something with philosophical thought, or sophia.  Both were similar, although one utilized phronesis - or applied thought - where philosophy only utilized sophia, or thoughtfulness.  It did not necessarily apply those thoughts mathematically.  However these schools (depending on which you ascribed to; Platonic, Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, etc...) all shared some level of each.  Religion, likewise, shared themes with these schools.  Christianity, for example, followed closely with Platonic and neoPlatonic roots.  So it is not easily distinguishable.

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Hambydammit wrote:Hmm.  At

Hambydammit wrote:

Hmm.  At first glance, this seems rather arbitrary.  Speaking from pure epistemology, anything is necessarily defined by its limits, so given a universe of discourse, it doesn't matter if we say everything that something is not, or simply what something is.  I can just as easily say that shellfish are water creatures that do have shells and do belong to the family Haliotidae.

You can, with the benefit of understanding that comes from modern biology.

It's rather a different matter to notice things living in the ocean which do not have fins or scales and proclaim, "These are unclean" - or, even worse, believe that some sky-spirit proclaimed likewise.

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BMcD wrote:Early men

BMcD wrote:
Early men (individuals, I'm talking about) try to understand the world around 'em.

You can say "men": the ancients weren't keen on women thinking, much less publishing their thoughts. It just wasn't their place. Imagine our surprise when it turned out women are just as dumb as we is.

BMcD wrote:
God of the gaps is built in from the beginning... the band-aid explanations aren't really attempting to be a final answer so much as a 'Shoosh and lemme think about it more'.

That was actually my point. Just because someone accidentally found a decent explanation doesn't mean that they're leading the way. ESPECIALLY that shit about the bible coming up with scientific explanations in hindsight. Holy shit that puts me in a rage.

Example:

In Jebediahoseafat 21:33, the Lord sayeth: "Unto thine fields shall water fall, and the sun shall shine upon them, and the plants shall feed upon the sun."

See how God just told us how photosynthesis works? Fucking morons.

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HisWillness wrote:In

HisWillness wrote:

In Jebediahoseafat 21:33, the Lord sayeth: "Unto thine fields shall water fall, and the sun shall shine upon them, and the plants shall feed upon the sun."

See how God just told us how photosynthesis works? Fucking morons.

 

..and crop rotation.   Oh, wait...

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Quote:There's a weird and

Quote:
There's a weird and unfortunate division between philosophical ethics and actual human ethics.

In my latest round of windmill tilting, I'm finding that criticizing postmodernist ethical models gets me about as far as criticizing theism.

Quote:
I was able to sit in on a lunch between a philosopher and a psychologist discussing ethical frameworks.  The philosopher was interested in theory and people's choice to adhere to systems of ethics, the psychologist was interested in only determining why people made moral decisions (well, really he wasn't interested in the philosopher at all). But what it came to was the psychologist studied how people make ethical decisions, and the philosopher on grander schemas. 

The bizarre thing is that philosophers who are completely comfortable pointing out the ad hoc nature of religious claims don't seem to grasp the same concept when it comes to ethics.  The idea that people "choose" to adhere to a system of ethics is at least fifty years obsolete and discredited.  I know I can wax philosophical from time to time, but honestly, I have very little patience for people who insist that philosophy proves anything.  If there's no empirical evidence for an ethical model, it's just didactic ball scratching.

Psychologists, philosophers, and theists have all been incredibly reluctant to admit that the human brain is an organ, just like the heart or lungs, and that our consciousness, conscience, perceptions, etc, are all just as linked to our biology (genes!) as anything else.  Until this admission is made, most talk of ethics is misguided, if not just plain wrong.

 

 

 

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HisWillness wrote:BMcD

HisWillness wrote:

BMcD wrote:
Early men (individuals, I'm talking about) try to understand the world around 'em.

You can say "men": the ancients weren't keen on women thinking, much less publishing their thoughts. It just wasn't their place. Imagine our surprise when it turned out women are just as dumb as we is.

Heh. Yeah.... no, I meant as differentiated from 'Early Man', meaning like, neanderthalensis or other forms of homo. Eye-wink

Quote:

BMcD wrote:
God of the gaps is built in from the beginning... the band-aid explanations aren't really attempting to be a final answer so much as a 'Shoosh and lemme think about it more'.

That was actually my point. Just because someone accidentally found a decent explanation doesn't mean that they're leading the way. ESPECIALLY that shit about the bible coming up with scientific explanations in hindsight. Holy shit that puts me in a rage.

Example:

In Jebediahoseafat 21:33, the Lord sayeth: "Unto thine fields shall water fall, and the sun shall shine upon them, and the plants shall feed upon the sun."

See how God just told us how photosynthesis works? Fucking morons.

Oh, yeah, total agreement there. I'm just saying that while they may have resorted to Authority to stop people from asking questions they didn't have answers to yet, we can't say for certain that they didn't want to find those answers, originally. Just that the later flunkies and pushers wouldn't have cared.

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 Quote: I know I can wax

 

Quote:
 I know I can wax philosophical from time to time, but honestly, I have very little patience for people who insist that philosophy proves anything.  If there's no empirical evidence for an ethical model, it's just didactic ball scratching.

 

You wound me, sir.  :'(

I think a wholesale dismissal of philosophy is a bit extreme.  Philosophy is not science, nor meant as a tool to explain the natural world any more than poetry is...  and no responsible philosopher would claim otherwise.  (other than perhaps logicians, whose goals are somewhat different.)

 

Quote:
The bizarre thing is that philosophers who are completely comfortable pointing out the ad hoc nature of religious claims don't seem to grasp the same concept when it comes to ethics.  The idea that people "choose" to adhere to a system of ethics is at least fifty years obsolete and discredited.

 

Well, while moral theories are ubiquitous [buzz word!!, +2 points], I have never met a philosopher that thought it was an actual model for human behavior.  Philosophers talk about how a person should act, not how people do act.  There are even large companies that employ ethicists to ethically evaluate board decisions (and then usually ignore what they have to say).

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Hambydammit wrote:I realize

Hambydammit wrote:

I realize that my question is not well formed, and I realize that religion, by definition, is non-scientific.  My main objective here is to avoid getting called out on some obscure case where religion guessed right based on prayer or divine revelation, and science had it completely wrong.

I don't like using sweeping generalizations unless I'm really secure in them.  If I'm going to say that religion has never gotten a leg up on science, I want to make sure that it hasn't.  It's not that finding an instance of religion being correct is going to hurt my argument.  In fact, I'd almost rather find one example.  It would be really funny (I think) to be able to "give religion credit where it's due" and admit that fifteen hundred years ago, religion guessed right about one thing. 

I think the problem is that religion can *say* anything, and often does. It might say X. It might say Not X. The truth is either X or Not X. But it is not until science comes along and determines X that the X-claimers will suddenly say, "See, we told you all along!" Is this a case of the X-claimers 'getting it right where science got it wrong'? I don't think so. Science never claimed X or Not X until it got some evidence, and then it made its claim.

Perhaps you are talking about a situation where science used to say Not X emphatically, and now they are saying X emphatically. In this case, you should focus your search on the great paradigm shifts. From Newton to Einstein. From Einstein to QM. Unfortunately, many of these are too technical for there to have been a serious claim by theists of one paradigm over the other.

Maybe you could focus on something like the old 'nature vs. nurture' debate. An example might be Phrenology claiming that people are criminals because of the shape of their heads, vs. modern psychology and sociology claiming that it is largely due to upbringing and social climate. But then, the debate is never clear cut, as I'm sure there will eventually be some neuroscience that shows that some forms of crime (such as violence, probably) are partially influenced by brain structure.

My conclusion: It's unlikely that there is any clear-cut case where science emphatically claimed X, and religion emphatically claimed Not X, and we later learned that the situation becomes a clear-cut reversal where science is forced to claim Not X. It will almost always be a case where a) the religious are split into factions, some claiming X and some Not X, and b) the science in its early stages first claims X, and then later it is refined to mostly-Not-X but sometimes-X.

My advice: don't worry too much about this. Science is driven by evidence. Religion is not. Anyone can make a claim, but if they don't have evidence, it's just a claim, and it wouldn't be fair to say they 'got it right' as opposed to they 'happened to guess right'.

[As a side-note: I do believe there are cases where intuition itself can lead to correct conclusions, where there is insufficient evidence to make a scientifically-justified claim, or where there is not enough time to make a scientific investigation. There is a valid case for the rationality and usefulness of intuition. The only thing is that it's not systematic, objective, and reliable like science. It's really only justified for quick-and-dirty decisions, or for the generation of hypotheses.]

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Oh, by the way,The one area

Oh, by the way,

The one area where I think 'religion' may have 'got it right' to some extent would be in the workings of the human mind. Buddhism and Hinduism, for example, taught practical techniques for improving your skill at managing your own mind. Freud added a few interesting ideas to science in his time, but kind of went off the deep end with psychoanalysis. Today we are 're-discovering' mental tools such as meditation as ways to improve mental health. You could say that the Buddhists got it right, and Freud took us off on a tangent for a while.

Another example, I would personally say, is that most, if not all religions, have discovered ways of manipulating the human mind for the purpose of their own propagation. In Christianity, you have a whole system of techniques which have the effect of brainwashing anyone who reads the Bible uncritically and credulously. I would not say these are conscious techniques, since the believers do not go around saying, "See, we got it right. We know how to brainwash people, and science is just dabbling in this area of psychology." It is more of an unconscious, undirected evolution of religious memes. But I do claim that religions have encoded within them knowledge of the human mind that science will one day unlock, but has not yet unlocked. In this narrow sense, religion knows something that science does not.

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