Class Warfare Blog

November 13, 2018

No, I Don’t Think So, Nope

I started reading the book The Evolution of God by Robert Wright last night and right from the start he declared himself to be an accommodationist.

There have been many such unsettling (from religion’s point of view) discoveries since then, but always some notion of the divine has survived the encounter with science. The notion has had to change, but that’s no indictment of religion. After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.

He is even more explicit shortly thereafter:

“These two big “clash” questions can be put into one sentence: Can religions in the modern world reconcile themselves to one another, and can they reconcile themselves to science? I think their history points to affirmative answers.

I am interested to see how he pulls this off. He is hinted that the religious will need to modify their beliefs in the process, so I wish him luck with that.

Here I want to address the first quote above, specifically the part “After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.”

Uh, no. In this he is overlooking a few small aspects of science that are completely missing from religion. First, scientists are looking for what works and allow that nature gets to decide. A good scientist follows wherever the evidence leads. If one’s thoughts are refuted, one changes one’s mind … period. (Some struggle at this more than others but a scientist hanging on to disproved ideas can expect only ridicule and pity at best from other scientists.)

Scientists arrive at their truths through criticism of their own ideas (it is required not just encouraged).

Religionists, on the other hand, claim to already know the truth, some claim that they are in possession of all of the truths and that there are no more. They do not systematically examine what they believe to weed out error and mistakes; they do not even encourage that. And they only change their minds when they absolutely have to, often never reaching this state. After all, who is going to change their mind for them. Even in the Catholic Church, whose leaders have accepted parts of evolution theory, there are some Catholics who accept no part of that theory. (In addition the Church’s leadership on artificial birth control has been ignored by 90+% of American women.)

So, the idea that “Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.” is impossible. Any change occurring in religions will not be based upon changing “relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories” so, while religion does change (the gaps that gods used to hide in have gotten smaller and smaller) it will not be due to the “same thing” as happens in science when it changes. Scientists want science to change, want it to get better, want it to work better. Religionists claim that there is nothing to change, nothing to get better, nothing to work better. It is all correct as is. Why would it want to get closer to the truth? They believe there is no “closer” possible.

 

 

 

16 Comments »

  1. “Religionists claim that there is nothing to change, nothing to get better, nothing to work better. It is all correct as is. Why would it want to get closer to the truth? They believe there is no “closer” possible.”

    That is the exact opposite of what most religions claim.
    Secularism is the best example of “nothing to change” philosophy.

    Like

    Comment by John Branyan — November 13, 2018 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

    • Are you writing from the Monty Python Naysaying Department?

      On Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 12:41 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 4 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 13, 2018 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  2. Not when they are mindless drivel, no.

    Like

    Comment by Steve Ruis — November 13, 2018 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

    • Religions emphasize changing behavior to align more closely with an “goodness”, “holiness”, “oneness”, or some other standard of “better”. Dismissing my comment as “mindless drivel” is lazy.

      Like

      Comment by John Branyan — November 13, 2018 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

      • But the standards haven’t changed, it is just behavior you are referring to. In science what is believed to be the case is changed (and please do not switch the definition of believed into some spiritual thing.). Again, mindless drivel.

        On Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 1:51 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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        Like

        Comment by Steve Ruis — November 13, 2018 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  3. The revisions and changes in science are improvements—better versions increasing in depth. Religion is stuck with an archaic map where the world has grown considerably. Going back to my hometown, I can barely find my way around. Pulling out the old maps from before the town was even founded, really is a setback when looking for direction. The religious map is from a violent time where equal rights weren’t even a possibility. Makes a pretty shitty guide when we all know there is a better way.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jim- — November 13, 2018 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  4. I’m wary of anyone who bandies phrases like “the truth” about with such a cavalier disregard for irony, among other things. And theists are especially prone to using terms like “truth” and “absolute” as if one size fits all.

    Science is corrected by better science, not theistic doctrines. Science doesn’t deal with “truths”, but with evidence. Branyan scoffs at or dismisses evidence — as you do when you have so little of your own. But history shows that religion is usually forced to play catch-up to science. And the failed “moral absolutes” proclaimed by theists are now — thankfully — being replaced by secular alternatives which are fairer and more humane.

    This accommodationist nonsense peddled by the likes of Wright is likely a pursuit of fool’s gold.

    Like

    Comment by ChrisS — November 14, 2018 @ 3:44 am | Reply

  5. I have been more or less a fan of Wright in his other books but I’ll probably pass on this one.

    Still I am not sure that the difference between science and religion is as great as some believe.

    There is clearly a difference. Science will eventually arrive at better or ore useful truths while religion mostly isn’t even looking for new truths.

    Nevertheless, when we look at string theory, the multiverse, or the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, I think we are borderline on something closer to religion than science.

    Like

    Comment by James Cross — November 14, 2018 @ 7:58 am | Reply

    • I think that the impression that science at its extremes is closer in appearance to religion is an illusion. It is founded in the fact that as we get into an area that we find confusing and divorced from common sense, we tend to lump those things with other things we find confusing and contradicting of common sense. The difference is that if one applies oneself to understanding a bit of science that is baffling, that illusion goes away, not because it becomes more commonsensical, but because it becomes comprehendible. religion, on the other hand, never loses its lack of comprehension because that is one of its selling points (aka “the mystery”) which is highlighted by the comment “because I cannot understand it, it becomes more believable.”

      On Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 7:58 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 14, 2018 @ 8:12 am | Reply

      • It’s not just that string theory, the multiverse, or the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics are confusing or contradicting of common sense but it is that these are theories that can’t be proved.

        The multiverse, in particular, seems to be concocted to answer what is mostly a theological question about why we live in a universe with the physical constants to permit human life.

        Like

        Comment by James Cross — November 14, 2018 @ 8:43 am | Reply

        • Yes, and they are all new.Theories that can’t be proven never last very long. And I wouldn’t go along with calling them theories. They are closer to being theoretical patches on existing theories. They are somewhat wild conjectures and the steam is coing out of many of them. String theory was quite popular based upon its promise. As that promise doesn’t seem to be bearing fruit people are turning away from it.

          Granted, I share with you a bit of distaste regarding some of these theoretical directions, but I am reminded of being in school and being taught about “irrational numbers,” such as the square root of minus one. This nonsensical definition couldn’t lead anywhere, I thought but it did.. I learned that some actual natural phenomena are best described with irrational numbers. So, sometimes one has to go through the ridiculous to get to the sensible.

          On Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 8:43 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Like

          Comment by Steve Ruis — November 14, 2018 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  6. Religions do change over time, but not for the purpose of getting any closer to “Truth™” They diversify, compete for the resources they need (human minds) to survive and spread, and those that are the best at competing in the current social environment are the ones that are transmitted to the next generation. Sound familiar? The major religions today have had centuries to optimize themselves for survival, infecting and controlling people, getting them to recruit and indoctrinate to ensure transmission to future generations. Without being alive, or even physical in any way, they still behave like viruses. (Valerie Tarico wrote a really good piece on this idea, here: https://valerietarico.com/2009/06/27/christian-belief-through-the-lens-of-cognitive-science-part-5-of-6/)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ubi Dubium — November 14, 2018 @ 10:56 am | Reply

    • I follow Valerie’s blog and I read her book. Good stuff there.

      On Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 10:56 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — November 14, 2018 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  7. So very true. Religions have had centuries to get to where they are today. Science, not so long really. Science really began with the enlightenment. Give science a few hundreds of years then see where it stands. I won’t be here to see that, but I’d bet the whole farm science will still be hard at work looking. After all, once you find “the answer” to everything, what is the point of going on?

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — November 14, 2018 @ 5:50 pm | Reply


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