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    Is Science A Belief? Is Religion A Science? Recent Research
    By Richard Mankiewicz | February 27th 2010 12:14 AM | 53 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    “Is religion a science?” This may seem an odd question with which to start, but this is the very first question Aquinas asks in his monumental Summa Theologica. “Among the philosophical sciences one is speculative the other practical [natural philosophy], nevertheless sacred doctrine [Roman Catholicism] includes both; as God, by one and the same science, knows both Himself and His works.” For Aquinas, not only is theology both a speculative and natural philosophy but it is also superior to both, in as much as it is guided by divine knowledge, which cannot be misled, and has as its end ultimate bliss, towards which all other sciences strive too.

    Admittedly, this was written in the 13th century and what we translate as “science” (scientia) is often synonymous with “knowledge”, but it is nevertheless recognisable that science is defined as a natural philosophy guided by our rational faculty, in contrast to “wisdom” (sapientia), which alleges knowledge of the divine through the light of faith. In the absence of personal wisdom, belief in sacred doctrines (which cannot err) is sufficient to ensure eternal bliss. To Christians who agree with Aquinas a brand of natural theology is thus always superior to mere natural philosophy, even if at times they appear to be the same.

    But what if we turn the question around:”Is science a religion?” or “Is science a belief?” The philosophy of science makes no claims to knowledge about the supernatural or metaphysical and, by not so doing, is left with an enterprise that although hugely successful is also permanently on probation. The only thing scientists can agree upon is the empirical nature of science, but the steps from observations to theory are not without philosophical problems. Thomas Kuhn thinks that scientific paradigms are essentially pictures of the world that are consistent with observations and logically coherent. But such pictures are necessarily always incomplete – at least until such time as we know everything – and our minds seem to struggle to accept this; it seems like there is an aesthetic compulsion to create harmonious images, even if that means filling in the spaces with metaphysical constructs. If both the sciences and religions are mental constructs are they both being sustained by human beliefs? Moving away from speculative into natural philosophy, what do we actually mean by having a belief?

    Two ground-breaking papers from researchers at UCLA start to shed some light on the nature of belief: “The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief” and “Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief and Uncertainty”. The “fMRI of Belief” concentrates on the initial results whereas the “Neural Correlates” paper looks more deeply at the implications for religious beliefs.

    The fMRIs of Belief

    The researchers “used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of 14 adults while they judged written statements to be “true” (belief), “false” (disbelief), or “undecidable” (uncertainty). To characterize belief, disbelief, and uncertainty in a content-independent manner, we included statements from a wide range of categories: autobiographical, mathematical, geographical, religious, ethical, semantic, and factual.” The full details can be read at the “fMRI of Belief” paper.



    There was a significant difference in the response speed for statements that were true compared to those that were false or undecidable. There was no significant difference between the reaction times of these latter two categories. Thus, “Several psychological studies appear to support Spinoza's conjecture that the mere comprehension of a statement entails the tacit acceptance of its being true, whereas disbelief requires a subsequent process of rejection. Understanding a proposition may be analogous to perceiving an object in physical space: We seem to accept appearances as reality until they prove otherwise. Our behavioral data support this hypothesis, insofar as subjects judged statements to be “true” more quickly than they judged them to be “false” or “undecidable”.”

    Looking at the brain scans, the images showed a distinct increase in activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) for statements of belief versus disbelief. This VMPFC appears to be involved in reasoning tasks that have a high emotional salience, including modulating behaviour in response to changing rewards, selecting goal-based actions and, it seems, in on-going reality monitoring. Thus if our reality is the sum of true propositions then each manifestation of such propositions gets a positive emotional boost, as if to verify that it still holds true. Damage to the VMPFC has been associated with an inability to feel any moral consequences to planned actions as well as to confabulations, where reality-checking has seriously broken down. What was surprising was that this activity in the VMPFC was independent of the content of the propositions: mathematical propositions that were true showed the same signal as religious propositions that were deemed true by believers, as well as irreligious propositions deemed true by disbelievers. What we seem to be witnessing is part of the brain's truth checking system, and that system is powered by emotions.

    In contrast, when the researchers analysed those false statements compared to either true or undecidable ones they found increased activity in the anterior insula (on both sides) and the left frontal operculum. Taken together, these regions are associated with judgements about taste, smell and pain. Statements that are untrue - basically lies - are experienced as unpleasant or downright disgusting. Yet again, what we think of as rational decisions are mediated by emotional responses. Good and bad are thereby associated with pleasure and pain. The lessons of the real world are replicated by the brain so that it simulates such real world responses when reacting to purely mental constructs, even to statements that appear quite abstract and unemotional. What is worrying to a rationalist is that the same emotional weight is given to supernatural statements as to natural statements.

    Lastly, a quick look at the fMRI scans for those propositions that were undecidable compared to those that were either true or false. These showed a marked increase in activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and a decreased signal in the caudate. The ACC is thought to be involved in processes of error detection and behavioural responses to cognitive conflicts. It is therefore not surprising that it should also be involved in questions of undecidability, some of which may be the unresolved conflict between truth and falsehood.

    Overall, what the research has uncovered, is that the brain seems to treat propositions and thoughts about propositions in very similar ways to other sensory inputs. Decisions taken about the truth of statements seem mediated by emotional responses, with truth and falsehood eliciting respective feelings of pleasure and pain. This appears to be independent of the content of the statements and applies equally to natural and supernatural claims. This is an important step forward in understanding the neurology of belief. It also suggests that our lexical distinction between knowledge and belief may be much finer than we expected. To the believer, the belief is knowledge, and the brain reinforces this through its pleasure circuits. The mutual incomprehension between religious believers and non-believers starts to make sense. But it also means that an individual's supposed rational internal dialogue is also subject to the same processes. A person's mental map of the universe may thus be deeply flawed and yet trying to change it is a painful process that few are willing to undergo – in some ways we are all addicted to our prejudices.

    It is worth taking a short detour here into Eastern religions. Sam Harris has been vociferously criticised by both theists and atheists for his support of Eastern esoteric practices and especially Dzogchen, which he merely hints at in the last chapter of “The End of Faith”. One aspect of Buddhist, and Dzogchen, philosophy relevant here is that the mind is considered a sixth organ, equivalent to the other five sensory organs. The mind here is taken to be those thoughts and images that are made conscious – our internal chatter. This isn't the place to discuss this in depth but the perceiver is our base awareness and our experiences are everything that is made conscious to our awareness. We have no access to the unconscious processes that create conscious thoughts. By this token such thoughts are as external as any other sensory input. The research findings here suggest that the brain responds to thoughts using the same mechanisms as if it was responding to inputs from the other senses. Conscious thoughts are equivalent to sensory inputs, somewhat verifying Buddhist philosophy of mind.

    Neural Correlates

    The second paper, “Neural Correlates”, looks more closely at the religious statements in the experiment and at the brain scans of religious and non-religious subjects. When comparing religious statements with non-religious ones, across all the research subjects, we again find increased activity in those areas associated with either pleasure or pain. The data as presented in the paper does not distinguish between the theist and atheist camps so we are left to assume that the pleasure and pain responses were correlated with the individual's beliefs. Here, the research cites a paper in which the ACC is negatively correlated with strong religious beliefs thereby suggesting that a religious faith paints the world in black and white and hence reduces conflicts between shades of grey. It may also be that the “God of the gaps” is a psychological mechanism to avoid mental conflicts.

    When comparing the brain activity when a subject was confronted with non-religious statements compared with religious ones we find a distinct increase in many areas of the left hemisphere - including the hippocampus - that are involved in memory and language retrieval. Not a great surprise here, but interesting finding is that the believers and non-believers showed increase brain activity in exactly the same areas when responding to negative, or blasphemous, statements about Christianity. Thus although the Christians responded negatively to such statements, and the non-believers positively, the same areas were involved. It is not clear if this is purely down to the non-believers being largely former Christians.

    Thoughts on Spinoza's Conjecture

    The 17th century philosopher, Benedict Spinoza, conjectured that the mere comprehension of a statement was tantamount to a tacit acceptance of it being true, whereas disbelief requires a further process of rejection. On reflection, this would seem to make sense in terms of pure processing speed. Somehow, a false statement needs retesting and opening up to a wider search to verify its falseness. This is most obvious in mathematical statements; “62 is perfectly divisible by 9” takes longer to process than “62 is perfectly divisible by 2.” The number of values of x for which the proposition “62 is perfectly divisible by x” is true is very small compared to those for which it is false. Whether the brain actually attempts a global search in the hope of finding each statement as true may well be worth further research.

    However, the current research shows that it isn't just a matter of processing power but also an emotional reaction to questions of truth and falsehood. Truth is beautiful, whereas falsehood is painful. This negative emotional reaction to false propositions may be the cue for a further search to see if one's original judgement is wrong – there seems to be an emotional prize in this extra mental effort in that discovering a new truth brings with it a sense of satisfaction and joy. However, what we seem to be left with is a form of mental hedonism. Is that the end of the trail?

    Belief and Faith

    This research implies that the truth of a statement is intimately linked to our emotional reaction to it.  That 'Aha!' sensation, when we understand something new for the first time, is part of our pleasure circuits. Our reaction appears to be independent of the subject matter of the proposition; whether scientific, religious, moral, political, it doesn't matter, our reactions purely depend on a recognition of what we think is true. But what is the process by which we acquire new truths? That 'Aha!' sensation happens just the once when something new has been discovered. Repeating the same statement is a lesser emotional experience. I think that research into these new revelations will be difficult as they are so transient and probably difficult to manufacture, but worth thinking about the possibility.

    If discovering new truths for the first time is a brief and transient experience, our general state of belief has the opposite difficulty in being a permanent background state. The religious believer has faith all the time, whether he or she is expressing it or not. I think that this too is an emotional background state and, again, I'm not sure how this can be measured but worth looking at by researchers in the field. A start can be made by looking at those people who have experienced a change of state, whether from believer to non-believer or in the other direction.

    The personal testimonies I have read have largely been from former believers who turned atheist, or at least non-theist. Their stories are revealing in that they follow a very similar pattern. They felt a huge sense of relief, like a weight had been taken off their hearts, a sense of new-found mental freedom and clarity, the fog had lifted, but they also felt betrayed by their religion, an emotional loss in spite of the freedom, a sense of having wasted one's time and a sense of futility at all those rituals and gestures. What struck me was that there is another state of mind that feels just like this when lost: love. Being in love – in love with another human being – has all the same emotions as being “in belief”, and falling out of love also has the same profile as “falling out of religion”. I think it is no accident that Christianity focusses so much on love and, in the extreme, there are those who sincerely commit their lives to loving Jesus or God – the brides of Christ really are emotionally married. So here is another area that I would like to see studied: is belief the same as love? The above research points to a correlation between truth and emotional well-being so why should this not also be the case in the background state of individuals. This also raises the question as to which is the default state: religious belief or disbelief? Is our default state to be in love or out of love? Does a state of “scientific belief” exist at all?

    A Thought Experiment

    Here is a thought experiment I designed (if it already exists elsewhere in the literature please let me know). Can a person hold two religious faiths simultaneously? Can, for example, a devout Christian also be at the same time a devout Hindu? You can replace those two religions with any other two you may choose and do the same thought experiment. Syncretistic beliefs count as new faiths so that the intersections of all sets of religious faiths is empty. This is not the same as the intersection of propositions of beliefs as there are obviously some beliefs that overlap. This experiment is not about the statements people make about their faith but their state of mind and emotional state associated with their faith. My proposition is that it is not possible to be a devout believer in two different religious systems.

    Now let's add science into the mix. Many religious apologists like to state that science is just another belief system and that therefore their religious system is on a par with science. This means, to them, that religious claims to truth are equivalent to scientific claims to truth. If this is true then we would expect that if we added science into our religious mix above that it would also create a new set with no intersections with other religions. But this is obviously false. Can, for example, a devout Christian also be a scientist? Absolutely! There seems to me to be no emotional reason as to why religious individuals cannot also be scientists. To return to Aquinas, his sacred doctrine is both a religion and a science but the two remain distinct. But Aquinas does not have equal faith in both realms; in a conflict situation religious faith wins. It is unfortunate that we have one word – belief – that seems to describe two different states. These two research papers, however, suggest that both science and religion are mediated by beliefs that are reinforced by emotional circuitry. Essentially, both atheists and Christians believe they are right because it makes them feel good. But these experiments were conducted on discrete propositions – there is still a difference between their default states.

    Inference Machine

    So where do we go from here? The “Neural Correlates” paper discusses some problems with the current thinking on the human propensity to believe supernatural propositions and cites Pascal Boyer's thoughts on the matter. One theory is that religious people seem unable to expose their religious beliefs to the same kind of reality testing as they would other propositions about the world. But as this research shows, this has nothing to do with their intelligence or ability to be rational in other spheres.

    “The failure of reality testing cannot explain the specific character of religious beliefs. According to Boyer, religious beliefs and concepts must arise from mental categories and cognitive propensities that predate religion — and these underlying structures might determine the stereotypical form that religious beliefs and practices take. These categories relate to things like intentional agents, animacy, social exchange, moral intuitions, natural hazards, and ways of understanding human misfortune. On Boyer’s account, people do not accept implausible religious doctrines because they have relaxed their standards of rationality; they relax their standards of rationality because certain doctrines fit their ‘‘inference machinery’’ in such a way as to seem credible. And what most religious propositions may lack in plausibility they make up for in the degree to which they are memorable, emotionally salient, and socially consequential; all of these properties are a product of our underlying cognitive architecture, and most of this architecture is not consciously accessible. Boyer argues, therefore, that explicit theologies and consciously held beliefs are not a reliable indicator of the contents or causes of a person’s religious outlook.”

    Does this make these papers completely useless? The researchers counter that although they agree somewhat with Boyer, they also claim that beliefs are transmitted from one generation to the next largely by language and that people's reactions to propositions are therefore valid indications of their beliefs, even if their rationalisations of their beliefs may be mere excuses for processes that are deeply unconscious.

    I also tend to agree with Boyer but wish to take the focus back to the individual's own mental landscape rather than adding layers of social influences. As the preliminary survey showed, social factors are very influential in how religious and non-religious people see themselves in society but not in how they experience their own psychology. Social rituals are important but they must ultimately serve a personal need, even if that need is completely hidden from the individual's own mental landscape.

    I feel I have written enough here and so will hold fire on my own theory for the existence of religions – I will publish that next. I think the above research is an important step in the science of belief and hope they will soon publish more. It is vitally important that scientists ask the right questions, even if that means putting science itself in the firing line.

    Comments

    rychardemanne
    The energetics of symbolisms sounds rather Jungian. One odd thing about religions is that they tend to die by implosion - the Greco-Roman gods died out of sheer lack of care. Yes, sometimes they die by invasion, but still interesting that they can also wither. I'd hoped the same would happen to Christianity, indeed is happening to it in Europe but, alas, not in the US and other countries who haven't had to suffer it for some 1500-2000 years. Memes too seem to have a ticking clock hanging around them.
    adaptivecomplexity
    Yet again, what we think of as rational decisions are mediated by emotional responses. Good and bad are thereby associated with pleasure and pain.
    I think one of the great strengths of science is that it is an efficient way to pull the signal out of the noise of our emotional responses to claims about the world. It's obviously not a perfect method, and we cannot transcend the emotional wiring of our brains. But scientific communities generally do a pretty good job of getting a handle on nature, as evidenced by our ability to manipulate nature in ways that never would have been possible by just tinkering in the absence of some very esoteric theory: we can make nuclear bombs, identify tumors with MRIs, make E. coli ampicillin resistant by manipulating basically invisible pieces of DNA, build superconducting materials, put a satellite into geosynchronous orbit, build hard drives, and engineer GloFish.
    Mike
    rychardemanne
    Thanks Michael, and while I agree with you I also think it is worthwhile to nail down precisely how scientific knowledge differs from other domains. The naive answer is that scientific propositions can be tested against an external reality, whereas religious statements cannot. But this research shows that the individual is not testing statements against reality but against statements it has already accepted - and this is true for both religious and scientific statements.

    By this mechanism it is thereby possible to build a completely false picture of the universe but one that the individual still believes in - even one that many individuals believe in.

    The problem as I see it is not so much the truth or falsehood of facts but of theories. Theories are more than a bag full of facts. I know, I recently came across a quote by Feynman to the effect that (paraphrasing) "Philosophy of science is as useful to the scientist as ornithology is to birds." But there are branches of science where philosophy has become important, such as the neurosciences, where correlations between brain activity and personal experiences require that both sides of the correlation have valid data.
    Fascinating article!

    There is so much here, that I have to address things in small, manageable pieces. So I will only cover a handful of points for now. By the way, I actually had to take notes as I was reading. LOL



    Thus, “Several psychological studies appear to support Spinoza's conjecture that the mere comprehension of a statement entails the tacit acceptance of its being true, whereas disbelief requires a subsequent process of rejection. Understanding a proposition may be analogous to perceiving an object in physical space: We seem to accept appearances as reality until they prove otherwise.


    This negative emotional reaction to false propositions may be the cue for a further search to see if one's original judgment is wrong – there seems to be an emotional prize in this extra mental effort in that discovering a new truth brings with it a sense of satisfaction and joy. However, what we seem to be left with is a form of mental hedonism. Is that the end of the trail?
    For the sake of simplicity and brevity, I'm restricting myself to the discussion of emotional reactions to scientific beliefs for now and omitting any discussion of emotional reactions to religious beliefs.

    I guess the question that comes to mind after reading these two proposition--both of which I agree with--is what particular aspect of a rational process gives rise to that "A'ha" emotional reaction when we believe that we have finally figured something out about the natural world? I've had that kind of euphoric emotional reaction many times when I have come to a new understanding or scientific revelation about the natural world--especially when it entials a question with which I have had to struggle for some time. But it's still not clear to me what the relationship between the conscious, rational processes in our brains and the unconscious processes that produce these pleasurable emotions is. What is it about certain cognitive functions that evoke these pleasurable feelings, that is not there when we believe that we don't have the right answer? Is it as Spinoza said that the mere comprehension of a statement entails the tacit acceptance of its being true, regardless if that statement is true or not. And if so, why does that trigger pleasure? Is it merely the internal coherence of the logic entailed in a belief and the understanding of that coherence that gives rise to pleasure?

    It was once believed that our brains were thinking machines that felt. But a few years ago it was clearly demonstrated by researchers in neuroscience that it's just the opposite; our brains are feeling machines that think. And that resonated as true in me, based on my own personal experiences in life.

    This leads me to infer that we can believe what we want, but we can't believe what we don't believe, which seems obvious at first but really isn't. Many times we wish we could believe in something that we don't believe simply because a particular belief may be more emotionally comforting. But we can't because either by reason or an emotion predisposition or a combination of both we simple do not believe a particular belief. This in turn begs the question, can we even believe what we want?

    The unconscious aspect of our minds is as was stated, just as objective as any sensory input that we receive from the world around us. And I guess it follows that the only way to explore this objective component of our minds is through research like this.

    It's like Schopenhauer once wrote, "You can do what you want, but you can't want what you want." We're not really aware of the processes that dictate our desires.

    I don't know. You've given me a lot to think about, Richard with your first-rate article. I'm going to have to give this some thought.

    By the way, while studying philosophy at UIC, Spinoza was one of my favorite philosophers. Pretty smart fella that Spinoza! ;-)
    rychardemanne
    Eric, agree "the brain is a feeling machine that thinks." From the experience I describe in my other article on brain rebooting I would go further and include the whole neurological system. We cannot think what we want to think, all we can do is observe the thinking. As you also say, we cannot believe what we don't believe in. All of it seems thoroughly depressing from a rationalist point of view, but perhaps the rational thing to do here is to accept the evidence that our rationalism is but a mechanism to create a harmonious picture of the world. Changing beliefs seems emotionally painful, so most people don't do it unless confronted with a personal transformative experience. Like those optical illusions that can be viewed as two different images depending on one's focus. Changing a few propositions suddenly changes the whole world picture into something new.

    What concerns me is whether we then have a measure of which picture better fits reality. Nietzsche wrote that the measure of a human is how much knowledge he or she can bear. This is pretty much the basis of buddhist philosophy as well as the Delphic "know thyself". Perhaps I have been too charitable to Boyer's view and that there is something deeply flawed with the inference engine in the minds of theists, but what this research shows is that everyone's reality check is not comparing thoughts with reality but with previous thoughts. Thus everyone is painting with the same tools, so why do we end up with so many conflicting pictures?

    Thanks a lot for your thoughts.

    Back to thinking again......
    Fred Pauser
    Eric, I appreciate your comments:



    I guess the question that comes to mind after reading these two proposition--both of which I agree with--is what particular aspect of a rational process gives rise to that "A'ha" emotional reaction when we believe that we have finally figured something out about the natural world? I've had that kind of euphoric emotional reaction many times when I have come to a new understanding or scientific revelation about the natural world--especially when it entials a question with which I have had to struggle for some time. But it's still not clear to me what the relationship between the conscious, rational processes in our brains and the unconscious processes that produce these pleasurable emotions is. What is it about certain cognitive functions that evoke these pleasurable feelings, that is not there when we believe that we don't have the right answer? Is it as Spinoza said that the mere comprehension of a statement entails the tacit acceptance of its being true, regardless if that statement is true or not. And if so, why does that trigger pleasure? Is it merely the internal coherence of the logic entailed in a belief and the understanding of that coherence that gives rise to pleasure?




    Maybe that pleasant "aha" feeling is based on a belief that is so fundamental that we are not aware of ever learning it. Have you ever seen a small baby in a high chair dropping items to the floor one by one and intently observing the results? S/he is learning about how reality functions, and continues to do so in various ways during those first years of life. In the process we learn very early that the better we understand how gravity and other forces of nature function, the better able we are to deal with the world and meet our own needs. I think this belief is established so early we are not conscious of it. One of the earliest "aha" feelings that I can recall, came when my father showed me not to saw a board with a handsaw and how to hammer nails. Later, like you, I've experienced that feeling many times with the disclosure of new scientific and psychological insights.







    This leads me to infer that we can believe what we want, but we can't believe what we don't believe, which seems obvious at first but really isn't. Many times we wish we could believe in something that we don't believe simply because a particular belief may be more emotionally comforting. But we can't because either by reason or an emotion predisposition or a combination of both we simply do not believe a particular belief. This in turn begs the question, can we even believe what we want?




    Yes, when I wanted to accept the beliefs of a particular pleasant Hindu ashram, ultimately I could not. I guess because I was not able make those beliefs mingle coherently with long-established beliefs of what I considered to be true of reality. Some people in the ashram spoke of the puny rational mind of man -- it's better to accept the teaching of the "ascended masters." I guess that's how some were able to rationalize (note the contradiction) their way into accepting their version of Hinduism, but my rational mind did not buy it.



    "Can we believe what we want?" Not really, I've long ago concluded we do not possess free will.



    It's like Schopenhauer once wrote, "You can do what you want, but you can't want what you want." We're not really aware of the processes that dictate our desires.




    Right -- we do not possess free will. Essentially, we possess the will of nature, the will of evolution. We have no choice but to use our rational minds to make our way in life as best we can.


    Gerhard Adam
    "Can we believe what we want?" Not really, I've long ago concluded we do not possess free will.
    While we can't indiscriminately believe what we want, we can rationalize certain beliefs to integrate them into our pre-existing belief system.  If there is no fundamental conflict with our existing beliefs, then it is possible to introduce a new belief into our worldview.  However, merely rationalizing such a belief isn't sufficient for integration and this is often where the circumstances you've described come into play.  We may be receptive to the idea and we may make some effort, but in the end, it doesn't fit and consequently we have to discard it.

    As I've mentioned in previous posts, the belief system serves as a data organizing mechanism in the brain, so anything that cannot fit within that organization must be removed since it can never be integrated.  Without integration it simply becomes some extraneous idea that we can articulate, but we don't truly accept it as a condition of the world's behavior.  In my view, this is precisely what happens when people lose their "faith".  They may feel an obligation to hang on it, but there's no real commitment to it and consequently affords them no comfort.

    Ultimately beliefs are about "control", at least to the degree that we think that we understand how the world operates.  Therefore everything must fit to enhance our understanding of that "control" or "predictability".  If it fails to do so, then we simply can't believe it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It's like Schopenhauer once wrote, "You can do what you want, but you can't want what you want."

    As criticism of the free-will doctrine, it fails because it is merely a play on the ambiguity of the verb ‘to want’, which can mean either to feel desire or to will. As a person, you most certainly can often do what you will, and you can will or not will what you want. - Frank van Dun
    http://users.ugent.be/~frvandun/Texts/Articles/FVD_FREEDOM.PDF

    Gerhard Adam
    But what if we turn the question around:”Is science a religion?” or “Is science a belief?”
    I think it's worth considering whether those are even the same question.  In my view a belief system is the mechanism by which our brains organize data to provide our own worldview.  In other words, it's the means by which we define our expectations of how the world works.  Science and religion are the mechanisms by which we populate that worldview.

    More telling perhaps, is that science and religion don't really contradict each other except at the borders of knowledge, where how we view events is fundamentally unknowable, or at least unknown.   In science we expect that the world behaves in a causal manner so therefore everything we experience must have an explanation, whereas religion allows for a much broader consideration of external intervention by a divine being.

    The perceived "conflict" between science and religion occurs primarily when religion draws those distinctions too broadly.  As a result when science is able to explain some phenomenon, then religion must back down to a different position (assuming that the proof is generally acknowledged).  

    From your article, it would be impossible to hold opposing beliefs since such a contradiction couldn't be sustained in any sense of a worldview.  Regardless of whatever consistency may seem exist from an outsider's perspective, an individual will have an internally consistent set of beliefs with which they interpret the world.

    In many cases, arguments could be made that science and religion do have many corollaries, but the primary test (in my view) is that each defines a different border against which questioning ultimately stops.  In religion whenever some point gets close to the question of a God, then questioning is suspended at that level.  Science creates such limits based on the discovery of laws, so scientists are content to cease questioning at the level of Heisenberg or the Big Bang.  In each case, we ultimately reach a point of where the response to any question is that the question has no meaning or is unanswerable.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rychardemanne
    Thanks Gerhard, the reason I quoted Aquinas was to show how far back the Christian view goes that its doctrines are superior to those of science. Natural philosophy (or science) looks the same as natural theology (christianised science) apart from those areas in which it contradicts christian doctrine. At which point either the Church slowly amends its doctrines or it claims superiority over science. This is seen over evolution and the Big Bang theory, especially among American sects. Interestingly, the Vatican has come out in favour of evolution but it has done so to move closer to scientists so that it can enforce its alleged moral superiority - in essence keeping the same stance but using a different tactic. For my sins I often read the Osservatore Romano just to check out its science stories and this tactic, of largely accepting the secular science but enforcing a Christian interpretation, is repeated over and over again. Thus, the religion does not always "back down" in a simple admission of error.

    As you say, both science and religion have their limits of knowledge but religions - at least the monotheistic ones - claim knowledge well beyond such limits. What to an atheist are pure metaphysical speculations are articles of faith to the believers. It is at this point that we could say that the inference engine of the mind breaks down and that creating a coherent world view is more important for the organism than that it fits with reality. Where a scientist may accept that there are pieces missing, the believer fills those in with metaphysics. If religion is a neurologically efficient mechanism it is at the same time a deficient one too.

    Does that make scientists intellectual masochists? Or is the buzz from discovering something new more powerful than the turmoil of dealing with truths, falsehoods and undecidability on a daily basis?
    Gerhard Adam
    What to an atheist are pure metaphysical speculations are articles of faith to the believers.
    Perhaps at the risk of stretching the definition of "faith", it could be said that the religious believers trust in the veracity of their explanations, while the scientists has "faith" that an explanation is possible.  I realize that this latter use is a bit out of bounds, because it doesn't actually occur in the same manner as it does for religious believers, but in essence this is what occurs.

    In my view, the distinction we actually experience is that most religious believers will extend that "faith" and claim it as fact.  Whereas the scientist has no "facts" to extend it to beyond believing that an answer is ultimately possible.

    This is often what surfaces in debates about evolution versus creationism, because at some level everyone understands that the questions of origins, at this point, don't have a good scientific answer, so the conclusion becomes that both groups are exercising an article of faith.  However, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the scientist's "faith" doesn't lay claim to any particular knowledge beyond the belief that an answer is possible, while the creationist uses their "faith" to claim an answer.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rychardemanne
    Science and Religion: thanks for all the comments so far, please keep them coming and I am answering them one by one. Sorry if the article was overly long but I had thought of chopping it into 3 parts but then the conclusions would have made little sense. I actually read these papers a year ago and found the conclusions somewhat depressing that I put this article on the back-burner. I feel the ultimate aim is to articulate the kind of research that is needed next. Would be interesting if I could do it myself but don't at the moment have access to research grants. So the next best thing is to help the research along. In so doing we may come across people who have already done the research and can point us to the findings.
    Fred Pauser
    Richarde,



    A terrific article!



    Decisions taken about the truth of statements seem mediated by emotional responses, with truth and falsehood eliciting respective feelings of pleasure and pain.




    Yes, to understand something of beliefs and belief systems, we need to take into account the underlying feelings of pleasure and pain. To again quote Einstein:



    "Everything the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and assuagement of pain."



    Neurobiologist Antonio Damasio wrote of the simple sea anemone:



    “The essence of joy and sadness, of approach and avoidance, of vulnerability and safety, are as apparent in this simple dichotomy of brainless behavior as they are in the mercurial emotional changes of a child at play.” (The Feeling of What Happens, p. 79)





    Damasio also wrote, “Some variation of pleasure or pain is a consistent content of the perception we call feeling.”



    What is more important to each of us personally than how well or how poorly we feel?



    This [pleasure/pain] appears to be independent of the content of the statements and applies equally to natural and supernatural claims.




    When people are not faring well in secular society and in pain, they may look to alternative belief systems. About 25 years ago, after a huge personal financial set-back, I moved into an ashram as a potential member. It was a very pleasant place. I wanted very much to buy into their beliefs so as to be able to join, but after considerable study, reason won out and I returned to secular society. But I can see how people with a lesser foundation in science could easily buy into supernatural beliefs. (However, I do have spiritual beliefs.)



    …there seems to be an emotional prize in this extra mental effort in that discovering a new truth brings with it a sense of satisfaction and joy. However, what we seem to be left with is a form of mental hedonism. Is that the end of the trail?




    The term "hedonism" carries a negative connotation which is not actually rational. It's better to just consider the issue raised here in terms of pleasure and pain. "It that the end of the trail?" A profound, NO! Our pleasure/pain mechanisms are the result of billions of years of evolution. It is through them that we continually seek to improve in terms of less pain, more pleasure, more freedom. This is behind our ever advancing technology. Instead of "the end of the trail," I think this is the beginning of understanding the basic purpose of life!
    Hfarmer
    It bears mentioning that the philosophical man in the first picture is not looking at the Christian art.   Somebody had to say it. 
    On a serious note.  Science and religion are two separate things.  They don't have to be mutually exclusive.  It seems to me that the conflict between science and religion, between scholarship and orthodoxy comes from the Christian, specifically Catholic west.  Which was more about keeping the peasants in line, The Pope and Crowned heads of Europe on their thrones.  Whereas in the non Christian world religion and science when hand in glove.  i.e. the Mayan civilization's great astronomers, physicist, cosmologist and mathematicians were all simultaneously priest.  They had far from some primitive understanding of nature.  Through the language of gods and symbols of their faith they conveyed a mathematical knowledge of nature that would be unmatched until the 20th century.  (They had the concept of space and time being one and the same by the first millennium AD. 

    Or of course the Islamic civilization, which for most of it's history was a source of new knowledge and innovation that is until dogma and orthodoxy stepped in towards the end of the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottoman's had the same vested interest that the church had in a ignorant compliant mass of peasants.  Otherwise the Sublime Porte might loose total control over it's far flung realms.  This fear was well founded as the decay of their empire can be traced back to the spread of nationalist ideas by educated Arabs. 

    What do these two stories tell me?  They tell me that being a little spiritual is a good thing.  A belief in the unseen and unsee able, the unknown and the unknowable can enhance ones science IF it is kept in proper perspective.  Whereas the Muslims of their golden age, saw the Quran as giving license to study the world and seek knowledge.  The Radical Muslims of this age see the Quran as the source of all that is worth knowing.  Whereas the Mayans of the classical age sought knowledge and interpreted through their religion, it is likely that their society decayed due in part to over reliance on "gods".  Like praying to the rain god instead of building aqueducts like their ancestors had. 

    That's all I have to say about this very good article. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    rychardemanne
    Caption competition: yes, you're right, the philosopher is actually also a scientist and he's pointing at his own book of mathematics and mechanics. The maiden is trying to convince him that christianity is a good idea but the old man is skeptical. Indeed, both are pointing at their own knowledge and both are ignoring the other's whilst trying to see who blinks first. I was going to write a witty caption but couldn't think of one.

    So, here's a caption competition! Have fun.
    Hfarmer
    Uhhhmmm.  I was hinting that the old man was leering at the young womans ..... works of art. ;-)   Know what I mean?
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hi Richard
    Another interesting thread, in some ways paralleling some of the points raised in the Brain Crash, Brain Reboot thread
    What are you on Tiff McMann?? - 'Of course, it's all metaphor' - phooey!
    Richard said, 'the reason I quoted Aquinas was to show how far back the Christian view goes that its doctrines are superior to those of science'
    It is also a good reminder & indicator to modern science/scientists of the need to escape from the notion of humanity being superior to nature
    I would like to see far more scientists publishing articles which show our understanding of being an intrinsic and dynamic component of nature, and help to rid the public of this notion that the likes of Monsanto are going to provide us with a sustainable future food supply - which derives straight out of the 'war with nature' philosophy
    And where is religion on this.....silent, shamefully, IMHO
    How can people be expected to have faith in religion, when it fails people at that fundamental level, and relies on 'the book'
    I see it as no different to the spiritualists, who are still trying to convince people of dead people talking, to convince people of the continuity of existence beyond the grave
    I am not re-assured by either, but I have had experiences in my life, that some people describe as religious, and some that some people describe as spiritualist, yet, somehow, I don't feel I 'belong' in either camp....they seem too stultifying to me, and yet I am not anti-religious or anti-spiritualist
    I just think that the proofs are flawed, and have insufficient interest in either, to pursue such paths of proof as may be required, not just for my own interest, but that would not ignite the flames of derision, or worse, war, at such proofs being brought to light - which could well account for the relatively stagnant inertia in 'the system', as is!
    By 'the system', I mean the sum total of human awareness of what science and religion really are, or are believed to be......and yes, there is crossover
    Provocative articles like this, help, thanks
    Aitch

    rychardemanne
    Sometimes feels like we've fallen into a crack, but I think it can be rent asunder. Interesting stats from a Pew Forum survey where they found that 20% of atheists also claimed to be spiritual, as well as 20% of religious people claiming they didn't believe (this last one seems more puzzling but I figure are those "social believers" who are publicly faking it).

    I therefore think that there are many more people in a similar philosophical position to what has been expressed by some of us here; for some reason they have kept quiet. People like banners and slogans, but my own guiding principle here is that everything is science - exoteric and esoteric science - or, if one prefers, everything is philosophy (natural and speculative).

    The most vociferous camps are the fideist religions and the atheist scientists, to whom  I say: a plague on both your houses. Of the so-called New Atheists the only one who understands our position is Sam Harris as he has studied Dzogchen. He is the only one who understands the difference between esoterism and religion - and has been heavily criticized for this from both the above camps.

    I haven't yet thought up a good name for this - perhaps "philosopher" will just have to do.
    Quote: "I haven't yet thought up a good name for this - perhaps "philosopher" will just have to do."

    I'm tempted to say Sorcerer, as I often feel like a mudblood....wink
    As a follow up, I was told, but have no way of verifying, that when they first hooked me up to an EEG machine, I had 'an experience' which apparently sent their recorder off the scales
    My mind was running riot at the time, part fear, and part 'I'll show you a trick or two!' - I was pretty feisty - so interesting that it's taken almost 50 years to get to there with fMRI
    Has there been any fMRI survey of psychics, yet?
    My feeling is that there's a new language needed to accurately describe/define what is going on 'on those levels' of consciousness
    I mean, who decided there are levels? - my experience has been more like spinning faster and faster till I jump the walls of 'the wall of death ride', only to find I'm in a different one, where things have the same components, but a different sequence - I said it was hard to put into words, & even though I've written it, somehow it falls short.....
    Aitch

    Mark Changizi

    Nice piece. Looking forward to the next one on the theory of religion! -Mark
    Yet again, what we think of as rational decisions are mediated by emotional responses. Good and bad are thereby associated with pleasure and pain.

    Scientists, ideally, accept as true their belief in the rationality of evidence supported, testable propositions about nature. They hold this belief in high regard - it provides greater emotional rewards when they pursue it as well as when colleagues and society praise them for their success at it. They get a feeling of disgust when they see a fellow scientist disregard this belief - akin to apostasy.

    Some scientists hold beliefs that can out-compete the above in terms of emotional rewards and punishments. Hence, the occasional bad science creeps in around the edges.

    Returning back to the original article, I'm now ready to address one particular point regarding responses of religious individuals versus non-religious individuals to certain stimuli and the differences I see in religion and science.

    When comparing the brain activity when a subject was confronted with non-religious statements compared with religious ones we find a distinct increase in many areas of the left hemisphere - including the hippocampus - that are involved in memory and language retrieval. Not a great surprise here, but interesting finding is that the believers and non-believers showed increase brain activity in exactly the same areas when responding to negative, or blasphemous, statements about Christianity. Thus although the Christians responded negatively to such statements, and the non-believers positively, the same areas were involved. It is not clear if this is purely down to the non-believers being largely former Christians.
    First of all, individuals from a religious background were first exposed to religion at a fairly young age, when the brain is far more impressionable on an emotional level than that of an adult. The child's brain hasn't even developed enough at this point to be capable of the higher cognitive functions that are entailed in critical thinking. The pre-frontal  cortex won't even be fully developed until around age 25. With that said, the experience of religion to a young child can be very overwhelming and even terrifying, especially if the child was raised as a Catholic as was I. I mean think about it. A child is told things like, if you're not good you will burn in Hellfire for all of eternity. This in turn instills a very profound fear of "God" in this very impressionable child. Religion to a child is more of a visceral experience than a rational one. And emotional impressions like these made at such an early age never go away.

    On the other hand science is introduced to the child at a considerably later age, when cognitive abilities have developed sufficiently for the child to become acquainted with some of the more basic concepts of science. And as the child grows into adulthood, if he or she continues to learn more science, this will in turn shape to a large extent his or her world view.

    Now a person like me, who rejected religion quite early, i.e., 13 years of age, still had a lot of notions that needed to be worked out both on a rational and emotional level regarding religion. And as it was for me, this can be a very long, drawn-out and painful process. Your Reason is telling you one thing while your Viscera is telling you something else. Sir Isaac Newton went through such a process which in time led him to conclude that Christ could not be Divine. Newton had over thirty bibles in his library and wrote more on religion than on any other subject, which would seem to suggest that there was a tremendous conflict going on inside him for a very long period of time regarding religious issues. 

    With me it was much worse. It resulted in me rejecting religion--any and all religions--completely and absolutely in concept, as well as the idea that a loving, compassionate, benevolent "God" was behind the creation of what I perceive as a really nasty world. Even Saint Augustine once wrote that, "God can not be omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent at the same time," given the state of the world and the human condition.

    Just learning the history of the Old Testament and how it came to be was enough to convince me that this was a book of fairy tales written by men. Never mind the countless contradictions and the immoral behavior of those favored by this wrathful "God" contained within the Bible.

    Ironically, even though the Old Testament is much older than the New Testament, it is easier to sort fact from fiction through archaeological evidence than it is with the New Testament. One reason for this is that not one single author of the gospels of the New Testament even knew Jesus. And Paul, formally Saul, was the only one who even knew some of the original apostles of Christ. Everything else was written two or three centuries after the death of Christ. And, I've never heard Jesus speak. Have you? I wasn't there!  And neither was anyone else alive to day. And that's a heck of a lot to take on faith, especially when your mind has been highly trained to think logically, analytically and scientifically with a healthy skepticism. And then there are gospels that were arbitrarily omitted, such as the writings of the Gnostics as well as others. And yet many people take the Bible as "God's Word" without question. I should note that I have more of a problem with some of the metaphysical and supernatural claims in the New Testament than I do with any of the moral lessons contained within it.

    So, I think you can tell just by the way I'm writing that even though I am not religious, and I don't believe in God, there is still a lot of emotion here. Why? Because rejecting these religious beliefs was a painful and sometimes terrifying process. It wasn't a purely rational process of indifferently dismissing a hypothesis because it is contrary to the empirical data. This was a highly visceral and painful process that wasn't fully resolved until a few years ago. Why? Because of all that emotional baggage that I was carrying around inside me from what the priests and nuns had instilled in me when I was young and impressionable. This wasn't something that I came to believe as an adult, because I had become convinced that it was true. This was something that was shoved down my throat in a way that used intimidation and tacit threats. I was terrorized into believing in Christianity when I was young. This is why I don't think children should be exposed to any religion, until they're capable of discerning what is valid from what is not valid. However, they most certainly should be taught morality and to be moral individuals. But you don't need religion to do that.

    Anyway, getting back to the brain scans, I think it may be a little clearer why the same areas of the brain are triggered in both religious and non-religious people when responding to negative, or blasphemous, statements about Christianity. Because even for a non-religious person this is a highly emotionally charged issue. In going through the transition of becoming non-religious after being a religious person, you feel anger and betrayal at being lied to. And you feel loss, realizing that there is no God that loves you or even cares about you and also loss of the belief that no matter how much you suffer in this life your virtue will be rewarded and your suffering will not have been in vain. The truth is no one knows what happens after we are dead. And all of our suffering may be in vain. But being virtuous, being a descent person is it's own reward even though it is the more difficult path.

    And that is why I do not think religion is on an equal footing with science, besides the fact that religion isn't seeking truth. It believes it already knows it. It doesn't go through the same never-ending self-correcting process science does. We know that we don't have all of the answers. We also know that there is probably far more that we don't know than there is of what we think we know.

    But my main point here is that we come to religion and to science in different ways and at different times of our development. Since religion engages more of the visceral part of each of us, this would explain why it affects the same areas of the brain in both religious and non-religious people. That's because it impacts us earlier on a more profoundly emotional level.

    We have agreed that the brain is a feeling machine that thinks! And the thinking part of a child's brain isn't even fully developed yet. So these emotional impressions will stay with the child the rest of his or her life. I'd be willing to bet that the results would have been different if instead of former Christians, you had people from entirely different religious traditions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

    P.S.

    I've written articles shorter than this comment! LOL
    rychardemanne
    Eric, I too was brought up a catholic but with slightly different experiences. I don't remember ever believing any of it - even my parents would vouch for that, to their obvious disappointment. I recall being in a state of bafflement as to what people were doing in Church, what were all those ghastly images, it made absolutely no sense to me even as a very young child. If anything, it was repulsive.

    However, I was still a young child and was taught to pray. I didn't quite understand what it was supposed to do or what it was for but learnt it. What I found interesting was that some years later - I can't recall, maybe at 12 or so - I decided to wilfully stop this piece of programming that somehow was still operating even though it lacked any meaning. I had to deprogram myself from the act of praying. It is almost the same as deprogramming from a hypnotic suggestion. I studied hypnosis years later, hence my feeling that it is very similar.

    I also mentioned in my other article about the experience of self-transcendence I had as a kid, probably at the age of about 8 - I can remember how tall I was! Somehow, I felt the priests were not only not telling me the whole truth, but they didn't know it themselves. At the time, I kept my gob shut! However, I have never had the experience of being a "lapsed Catholic" as I had never joined the club in the first place. I have no idea how common, or not, that is - I mean, the profound lack of belief in a religion since I can remember. But Jung says that childhood religious indoctrination stays with you all your life - the consequence of which, in his mind, is that if one chooses to go back to a faith then it is best to go back to one's original faith.

    I obviously disagree with this as it leaves no room for growth nor for the complete destruction of those admittedly powerful images for something wiser and more aware. I find it slightly odd that Jung would have said that as he later studied mandalas as psychic structural maps which, in the end, are totally abstract.

    In my 20s I had a number of religious experiences and they were, indeed, infused with a certain Christian quality but I also had more self-awareness and was able to see them as the images of mental functions. Although I disagreed with Jung above, his works on the images and dynamics of religious-type mental states are great pieces of philosophy and psychoanalysis. One of the things taught in meditation is to distinguish form and function of psychic content. Being aware of that meant I could be thankful for the experience without believing that the form it took came with the doctrinal baggage it was supposed to have according to organised Catholicism.

    To those who limply claim that all religions are the same, I disagree; there are profound differences between some of them. However, assuming we're all human we're also likely to have similar mental faculties and access to similar states of mind. At that level, mystics from various traditions may have something to say to each other, but only if they have transcended the doctrines of their respective cults. It seems to me that the metaphors of religious cults serve to imprint an image onto a mental state. It is, however, possible to wipe away the image and experience the state naked.

    Eric, probably not as long as yours... but almost. More importantly, hope it makes some sense.
    My recollection of my last [compulsory] visit to church, when I was about 11, and I told the vicar - 'Look, I'm going home now, because I keep getting sent here to see god, but when I get here he's never home, so when he comes back tell him I've gone to the park, and he can catch me up'
    Apparently my parents were 'visited' but had the good sense to realise that just maybe religion wasn't having the desired effect on me.....but it did become my mum's favourite embarrassment party piece for quite a few years
    Aitch

    From my point of view,science is neither a belief nor a religion.Its an activity carried by humans to find out the facts about the world in which humans live and to discover the ways in which this information can be organized into meaningful patterns that helps us to live in a better manner.Its a reality that helps you to come out of useless beliefs.

    "I think one of the great strengths of science is that it is an efficient way to pull the signal out of the noise of our emotional responses to claims about the world."
    I would agree with that and the previous statement.

    Ive only studed belief looking at source, oral and written. This is the first time Ive actualy looked at anything conected with how the brain actualy functions. One thing I would like to see if is any testing being done where the beliefs are delivered oraly rather than in written form. Would be nice to know if the responses are the same.

    On the thought experiment. Can a person hold two religious faiths. Can't answer that one but with folk belief, popular devotion and christianity, you get contradictions between the belief systems. Yet people hold or have in the past maintianed both sets of beliefs alongside each other.

    It points I think in part to the wider cultural and social functions of belief systems.

    Newton: from the General Scholium in The Principia.
    " And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy." Not just Aquinas.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...popular devotion and christianity, you get contradictions between the belief systems.
    I would argue that the contradictions are only present upon external examination by a third party.  To the individuals involved, they would not see such a contradiction and therefore have nothing to resolve.  In addition, many beliefs are context sensitive in that they don't occur as logical challenges, but rather as ways of interacting with the world, so it is entirely possible to hold a belief that one knows isn't true (or is unprovable to be true) and yet it remains useful.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes I agree. They are certainly very context sensative. Which is a problem with fieldwork, as you are not for the most part capturing the event in action. It's on the occasions when you encounter traditional belief's in life and as usual when you have no means of recording them that prove the most valuable.

    It is common now to have such performaces end with a formula along the lines of. Well I know it's not true but no harm in doing it/avioding the stuation, is there. Users of these beliefs (and i am not always certain that they are believed in every case, terms are tricky certianly in these matters) are well aware of their relationship with truth and proof. Individuals who are deemed to be particularly superstious for example becomr the butt of jokes or short tales by others who happily use the same beliefs.

    Folk beliefs and practice are also a means of interacting with the more prevelant institutional belief system in times of tension. i.e if the contract you have with the supernatural is not fullfilled you can always burn the priest. But this aspect works in a number of ways.

    They are certainly only contradictory to third parties.

    But yes it is always useful to hold these seemingly contradictory positions.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...doing what pop culture was invented for...
    You just don't get it, do you?
    Mundus vult decipi
    There is a difference between what we are capable of understanding of the physical world and what we know in our hearts to be the truth. Our science deals with the natural...the physical...the corporeal....the material....the rational and the empirical--however you want put it and nothing more! But that is not who and what we really are.

    Our bodies are stardust and to stardust they will return.

    It is what is in our hearts and minds (our consciousness--the pure essence of our true being)--including our scientific understanding (everything that we are and have become in a temporal universe) that will determine whether we are free and immortal.....or not. Our science is only a small expression of our own consciousness. And science, itself, will loose its substance, if no one, in time, no longer cares about it!

    The true underlying reality to everything is consciousness itself, and we are a part of that consciousness, whether we recognize it or not.

    This is what all of the world religions have tried to teach throughout the ages. But because religion is an artifact of man, it has failed miserably.

    Do we have the potential to change the laws of physics of this universe with nothing but what is in our hearts and minds....our consciousness? You had better believe it! But never through science alone. ;-)

    Anyway, whosoever comes this message should know that I have resigned from SB. Hank is already aware of this. So, this is probably that last thing that you will ever read written by me in this forum.

    Take care all, and be well! : )
    hello
    i have a research to do it ...please help me ...
    the topic ......difference between science and religion """ as far as a means of research ....... ""
    thanks

    Christian thought recognizes God as the author of creation or general revelation, and the author of scripture or special revelation. Therefore it makes perfect sense that the comprehension of truth be through the same mechanism whether it be spiritual or material. What I find most interesting is the degree to which people seem unaware of their abstract objects, and how these internal definitions and descriptions affect their reasoning. The degree to which the inputs of reality correlate to your abstract objects predict your sense comfort or well being in receiving new information. Science both theoretical and applied, relies heavily on the abstract objects of laws and properties to comprehend the inputs of new research. Abstract objects represent our internal beliefs, physical spiritual and metaphysical, so in this sense science is a religion because it cannot function without its abstract definitions (models and theories). I think most of us already knew this based upon the religious fervor scientist express in defense of their model or theory of choice.

    Gerhard Adam
    Rubbish ... that's simply a religious individual rationalizing that everyone suffers from the same belief defect.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You misunderstand the science, truth whether religious or scientific is understood the same way.

    Gerhard Adam
    Rubbish
    Mundus vult decipi
    Stuart Doblin
    Comment #11 | Thursday, Jul 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm
    The statement, “Science” is a “Religion”, requires more explanation to be understood, i supply this below:

    A “Religion” is a collection of “Beliefs”; and Scien-tests “believe” but don’t “know” that the observed world is “logical”, this “belief” that our World makes sense, is merely a “belief”, it remains to be “confirmed through investigation" - for a Scien-test, and thus Science, is not a party to Knowledge, which knows, and does not need to investigate further; for those who know, do not question; Science questions, because it seeks to confirm it’s Beliefs, this is what makes Science a “Religion”, for Science operates from within the Golden Assumption, that this Physical World, is “manageable” or “organized around Principles” and it is these assumptions which are merely blind faith hopes; our physical world, may be unmanageable and totally illogical, to believe our world is sane without God, as you do, “Reality Monger” is also a belief; for those who know God, rest in sanity, without a question.

    Gerhard Adam
    Ahhh ... hiding behind the definitions of belief.  This is invariably why such discussions are a waste of time, because the other side always tries to rationalize its "faith" as on par with science.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hello Gerhard, Good Morning!

    "...the other side..."

    What "side" am i on?

    Stuart Doblin

    Gerhard Adam
    Stuart

    You're obviously on the wrong site.  If you wish to preach, find yourself a church.
    Mundus vult decipi
    We have one ‘face’ with two : i’s : ONe ‘i’, sea’s or gazes upon the world : ‘Scientifically’, searching for physicality, that’s one : “fact: the other “i’ notices “emotional ‘facts’ in the ‘acts of others’ ", those are “facts” 2, that’s ‘faith’ : we use both eye’s to live with

    The world is : “and and both” : and no longer : “either and or”

    no “other side”

    no ‘demons’

    no ‘enemies’

    just friends we haven’t met yet

    Gerhard Adam
    ...we use both eye’s to live with...
    That's fine.  So why insist that the "scientific" eye must see things the same way as the "emotional" one?  Your point is irrelevant if there's going to be a perpetual argument that the "scientific" eye is wrong.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The two “eye’s” – sight differently, they never overlap; however, let’s be honest here, two totally different yet complete whirls or world’s arise; they’re both real, which means, they can be “felt” by the “observer” : even-though no one else on the entire planet “felt’ what you felt, you honestly ‘felt : “IT” : that’s your =”faith”

    You couldn’t love a bbq burger without your ‘faith’, or a woman or a man or a baby or a sunset

    : it’s real to you :

    and with your lovers, some friends, though not most, Remember always, that we use both, though from my experience, it’s more fun in the dark, so mostly, I just stay emotional, and try not to observe to much factually – in otherwords, I don’t read the news, I just experience the day

    Gerhard Adam
    You're abusing the word "faith" when you actually mean "belief".  There's a HUGE difference.  A belief consists of the premises or axioms with which we view the world.  "Faith" is the act of believing something for which there is no evidence.  Two vastly different things.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard, i can assure you, i’m a pacifist, i abuse no one, even “concepts”.

    OK, When you believe something, you don’t “KNOW” if the: statement, concept, idea, proposal, suggestion, or whatever, is “TRUE” or “NOT”, and because of that lack of verification, you can’t “know”, yet you can believe.

    Belief has to do with one’s “direction in life”; believe those things consistent with the direction your going, yet don’t accept, or ‘believe’ those contrary, however, investigate through Science those contrary disbeliefs, for maybe they hold “some truth”

    you can only “believe”, if you don’t know, if you know, your ‘certain” and can thus Guide others, since your Certaintly arises from Guidance within, from your emotional center

    however, some experiences occur to us within our mind, trust me on this, I don’t believe you’re a rock without feelings, so, when something walks in our mind, attrACTS our gaze, we notice that something “nice’ in our mind and want, some experience of wanting, to feel real,

    Now we may however, never express that ‘emotional experience’, we may not as they say “flesh it out”, yet the “experience” has changed US, altered US and our place in the world : The Facts of Matter Change, or the facts that do matter

    That experience of being “altered or changed” is THE FACT of the ACT, and is precisely the same definition for a FACT of Science, and that is the answer to the PrimE Question in Science : “What Changed?”

    For whatever that “change : “IS” : is “THE FACTS” OF SCIENCE, and ‘those facts” exist in a different dimension than emotional-facts which are sometimes not expressed, though experienced as factual, permanent, trustworthy, as in, “i’m going with my feelings, here”.

    Gerhard Adam
    OK, When you believe something, you don’t “KNOW” if the: statement, concept, idea, proposal, suggestion, or whatever, is “TRUE” or “NOT”, and because of that lack of verification, you can’t “know”, yet you can believe.
    Wow ... too many strange concepts getting tossed together here.

    Truth has nothing to do with anything because it is too subjective, so let's consider that something is verifiable to varying degrees of accuracy.  So, again, the idea of something being "known" is based on its ability to be verified.  The fact that such verification exists is a "belief".  That is axiomatic of science and the "belief" that science is a valid way of establishing meaning in the world and gaining understanding.

    Other belief systems argue that not everything can be verified.  That there are things that cannot be known.  Those items must be accepted on "faith".  That is the distinction.
    ...some experiences occur to us within our mind...
    Can you really think of any experience that doesn't?
    That experience of being “altered or changed” is THE FACT of the ACT, and is precisely the same definition for a FACT of Science, and that is the answer to the PrimE Question in Science : “What Changed?”
    Not at all.  An individual may have a completely subjective experience and be altered by the experience despite it having absolutely no verifiable basis in "reality".  In other words, the individual could be completely insane, and yet that doesn't render their experience a "fact" except within the context of their subjective experience.

    This is more specifically, what the role of science is.  Since nothing can be truly "objective", then we normally consider something to be a "fact" when it can be subjectively verified by a variety of individuals and a consensus can be reached that the collective subjective experience exists in a manner that allows us to consider it "objective".  In other words, something is "objective" [or a "fact"] when it can be experienced by everyone given a comparable level of understanding. 

    I really don't know why you're bringing up emotions as some separate entity, since they are intimately linked to intelligence and there isn't really anything meaningful that can be said about intelligence without including emotions.  So, I don't know what you're trying to say.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Let me define three words : faith, blind faith and good faith, and by way of strange occurrences, I typed not “faith: but : ‘fiat’ : and was reminded of a previous 'moment of faith' every time I attempted to ‘start’ my red convertible Pininfarina fiat back in the early nineteen-eighties, an experience only I felt, I simply cannot offer or relate the emotional experience of hoping beyond hope that the electrical system was simply gunna turn over and become “On”, and when it did, it was a blessing, and when it didn’t, it was a curse, though after so much regularity, it became a moment of laughter, a “joke”, as they say, “fix or repair daily”, and the external circumstances no longer effected me "emotionally", I remained “happy despite my problems”, and so I can say, “my faith remained strong”.

    ‘Truth’ needs to be explained before ‘faith’: Something is true : when ‘whatever’ does not change.

    "The Truth” will remain the same for eternity; thus, any transformation from one to another, renders, whatever was seen, merely : a jacket, a cover, a placeholder, a name, none of which was permanent, and thus not ‘real’ -- for only the ‘real’ can be without alteration, and thus be “true” eternally.

    One true statement about you and I, is that over time we will become more comfortable with each other, that’s true with everyone you meet, no matter who they are, the more time you spend with any one, the less foreign they become to you, and by way of extension, the more comfortable we get to feel at the Table of Grace.

    Friendship by the way, is not sharing the same beliefs, for we do nice things for those whether we agree with their "opinions or truths" or not, and we do so, because friendship is the hand offered when someone else needs one.

    We offer friendship to all we meet because we’re nice, and we are, Humanity : IS : we like to do nice things for others, it makes us happy, and of course, the less we expect we’re going to receive in return, the easier it is to simply enjoy ourselves, since we derive more of the channel of happiness without expectations, more joy is ours.

    The only truth is that which can be know through demonstration, by the way, Beauty is a part of our “Character” : Beauty MUST Be DEMONstrated to be observed, when in service to others:

    Our beauty is demonstrated in how we serve or treat “others”, and thus Beuaty when properly seen is the truth too.

    Much confusion exists today because we simply have not committed ourselves yet to accept : “The Fact” that only the truth can shine, or be golden, or be of permanence; thus, this ‘created world’ :holds “No Truth” it can’t, this world is “transformative”.

    What can hold the truth, are statements of emotion : “I will love you forever” or “I love the sounds of waterfalls” yet one day you don’t, if so, this must be because of 'your attitude', and not the ‘waterfall’, which means, the day’s joys or sorrows are chosen each day with one’s attitude, well then, choose joy, choose happiness, to achieve permanence or the truth, which is “Bliss”, Or “Grace” in certain “contexts”.

    When you verify “sense-data”, there are no, “varying degrees of accuracy”. Your confusing “accuracy” with “precision”

    Let me explain : I have two scales, both ‘accurate’ to plus or minus : one gram, my prized pet feline weights 10 kilo’s 395 grams, the scales offer a precise “weight”, accurate to plus or minus one gram, which means a scale of accuracy from : 394 grams through 396 grams, now you want to say because of “Precision of the instrument” that’s ‘varying accuracy’, 394 grams through 396 grams, no can do, the ‘varying degrees of accuracy’ are technological limitations, better equipment can reveal a ‘weight’ to a millionth of a gram, however, that level of detail is without value, or meaning, if the object to be “weighed” is ten-thousand grams.

    <...some experiences occur to us within our mind...
    Can you really think of any experience that doesn't?>

    When we share an experience with another, we do so from a Group Mind, or a United-Front, and this shared-mind is not our individual ‘self’, it’s larger, and that part which enlarges our mind : IS : ‘love’ : love fills in the spaces between us.

    OK, I agree, you can’t learn ‘sense’ from the ‘insane’, they make none, however, what if the insane just regained their ‘sanity’, What can we observe?

    That rationalism can come and go, like emotionalism, are emotions can change during the day, we can wake up upset, and go to bed “rested”, thus, no permanence no truth, yet, -- does one “side” lead to the truth, travel alongside truth, go in the same direction, so while the highway of truth may be elusive, we can still travel the frontage road and enjoy the vista, you can make that your ‘subject’

    I think we can all agree, that the ‘football’ on Super Bowl Sunday, just before kick off, is the one and only football on the entire Planet, that should be watched, if you want to watch the Super bowl.

    So yes, this “special football” which is about to be “kicked off” is the only object in the world of significance for those wanting to watch the Super bowl.

    No one would deny that the football is an object and further, that all two billion watching that football, are watching the same object, so yes, “one can say : Scientifically with accuracy of judgement, “This : IS : the football to watch”, to watch the Super bowl; watch another football and it’s not the Super bowl your watching! Which means, Pure Objectivity in which all the players agree can exist, however, outside of the game, anything else is just as possible to be a Super-bowl-football

    Emotions arise from our motions, so if we’re in a coma, we’re not emoting any facts that other’s can observe, so no Science is occurring, yet, to ourselves, memory is still occurring, though in another dimension, and would be referred to as The Fact of the Experience, or our “Faith” (now, this is not a perfect example, since while in a coma, brain and heart pulses can be detected, so try to “accept” through ‘feeling, or sensing’ the example, even if the example is not a perfect overlay or explanation, it’s merely suggestive, not substantive).

    OK, Faith, Blind Faith and Good Faith

    Faith : is our Self-Realization : it’s what we feel, and sometimes we feel the same feeling that others do

    Blind Faith is best referred to as Good or God’s Faith, and it’s what we trust in when we’re seeking Guidance or have yet to experience something, though other’s have, and we “trust” them from previous experience, which is our : “Faith” : Confirmed to US! And that’s a Fact!

    Gerhard Adam
    I realize how "truth" is used generally, but it is a poor definition and generally applied incorrectly.  At best, "truth" can only be associated with the absence of deception.  Anything more than that is a value judgment.  This is why I indicated accuracy as the objective.  More appropriately statements should be assessed as "correct/incorrect", not "true/false".

    If you want to quibble over accuracy versus precision, that's fine, but it doesn't materially change anything.  The point is that the consensus of subjective "experiences" becomes increasingly accurate to reflect what we consider to be "facts".

    I couldn't make any sense of out your comments regarding faith, but it seems that you're placing some sort of emphasis on self-confirmation as being relevant.  Sorry, but if that's what you're saying, that's merely subjective experience.  I don't even know what "self-confirmation" is supposed to mean, since presumably you aren't in the habit of lying to yourself or misinterpreting your sensory data.

    However, it may even take on the aura of "truth" [i.e. absence of deception] but it has no meaning or significance beyond the subjective experience of the individual.  It could all be delusion. 

    In fact, one of our persistent illusions, is the idea that "truth" can be "objective" and "universal".  it is one of the more interesting jumbles of words that is ultimately meaningless. 

    [Please, don't point to my using the word "fact" to make a statement that is supposedly "universally true" in having made that declaration.  No such claim was made, and it is simply an observation].
    Mundus vult decipi
    < At best, "truth" can only be associated with the absence of deception.>
    I cringe at the limitation you have placed upon : truth :

    I sometimes agree : that The opposite of truth is illusion or ‘deception’ as you say.

    Yet, Actually: “Truth”: sits by itself.

    Truth is in opposition to [nothing -- real].

    For deception is false-hood; or a False-Conclusion based upon false-perceptions.

    Thus, when we are “truthful” -- nothing else exists; yet, when we are ogre angry, or sad, truth still exists -- so, only when we are [K] not truthful, does truth have an opposite.

    Yet, when we join with ‘The Truth’ -- deception vanishes into nothingness and The Darkness no longer exists

    We were asleep in Heaven dreaming of hell

    Thus no 'real' opposition exists to truth and truth is not the absence of nothing, or deception

    < If you want to quibble over accuracy versus precision, that's fine, but it doesn't materially change anything. The point is that the consensus of subjective "experiences" becomes increasingly accurate to reflect what we consider to be "facts". >

    “Don’t start unloading the cargo!”
    The boat is either docked at the pier or not, let’s be precise and not quibble, huh?”

    < The point is that the consensus of subjective "experiences" becomes increasingly accurate to reflect what we consider to be "facts". >

    What I’m indicating that is being missed, is a “Shared experience”, this occurs, yet only between “lovers”, and between lovers much is shared, though rarely if ever publicly revealed, thus, your position is that: “without an iota of substance, all this: experience was not “communal” it was merely personal, of one subject and not a group, ‘a union of two: a commune it was not?

    I suggest that your awareness can leave your “brain” and join another outside of you; in the realm of awareness we call to -- to speak thereof, referred to as “Mind”?

    < I couldn't make any sense of out your comments regarding faith, but it seems that you're placing some sort of emphasis on self-confirmation as being relevant. Sorry, but if that's what you're saying, that's merely subjective experience. I don't even know what "self-confirmation" is supposed to mean, since presumably you aren't in the habit of lying to yourself or misinterpreting your sensory data. >

    Self-acceptance rather than ‘self-confirmation’, since the sense-data is revealed to each of us at different levels, confirming our own abilities, though, each of us has differing sensibilities, for instance, a Michelin five-star meal to a gastronome, or a ‘gas bag” as a good friend sometimes says of me, would be an entirely different affair to a three-year-old

    < lying to yourself or misinterpreting your sensory data.>
    Yesterday at the Post Office I asked for a “stamp with colors” the Postal Clerk’s vision is very poor and without any glasses on, she said, “Here’s one, some flowers”; however, with my better eye sight, I noticed not flowers, but an art deco 1920’ style “Poseidon “water God” with flowing beard and lightning rods as harpoons” -- So, was the stamp: Flowers or Poseidon: it was Poseidon, I can see, however, was the postal clerk a “liar” I think not, merely deceived, though immediately ready to receive the answer or The Atonement

    < In fact, one of our persistent illusions, is the idea that "truth" can be "objective" and "universal". It is one of the more interesting jumbles of words that are ultimately meaningless. >

    Truth is not an ‘idea’, Truth is a ‘Statement of Being”, it is a part of Our Existence and flows from the Desire to be Honest, to be Pure, to be Whole-Hearted, wholeheartedly; Truth does not relate to “OBJECTS” but to “Systems” as they are, or, as they will become.

    < [Please, don't point to my using the word "fact" to make a statement that is supposedly "universally true" in having made that declaration. No such claim was made, and it is simply an observation].>

    Facts may or may not hold truth, any stated fact, may not also be “truthful”; to say, “the weather is fine”, is factually meaningless or without any "truth" it is yes : of relations only to one subject, Since another might ask, "Fine for what? Scuba diving or Sailing?"

    Gerhard, try this : Your ‘accuracy’ is : one of two.

    I ask, “were you accurate”, and you say, “yes, one of two, and this time we missed, yet the time before, we made it”

    I ask, “where were you going?”; and you say, “to the moon”

    Now the astronauts in the lunar modual whose trajectory has missed the moon -- and are heading -- essentially, out of our solar system, to them, “we were not precise enough!”

    What’s my point, ‘accuracy’ describes where your going, ‘precision’ indicates if you get there, it’s best to just focus on precision and let accurracy naturally: “fall into line” or rest in the Divine, that way, your always precisely somewhere on target, maybe not center, but near by

    Gerhard, thanks for the opportunity to clear out the cobwebs: didn’t know what was in that closet, for in my father’s house, there are many runes, rooms.

    FACTS arise from within: Acts: two-waze:

    One Way, happens during the day and can be recorded with “external gear”, asking the Question: “What was the Action?” This is Science :

    …the other way, is more of a path than a daytime, for the significance is that the timeless is revealed and not concealed; and when the path is lit and easy to follow, we say, “enlightenment has occurred” :

    The Truth or Way of Tao is only experienced when shared

    This altering of systems reveals a different factor; that your desire is to fulfill the wishes of others, and in the process fulfilling your own, since their achievements mirror and with Grace transcend your own, thus raising all abilities

    We each “reflect” to each other: :what we believe “We Are”

    See your savior standing before you, and you are the savior

    One last story : living with cats has taught me personal responsibility to separate out those things I don’t want ruined, to acknowledge that some things I want in my life to stay whole and holy, free from blemish, and that’s because, as I awakened this morning, it was to cat puke spread over my bathroom counter -- I’ve noticed over the years, that this is part of ‘healthy cat physiology” and about once a week it occurs -- well, I live among ten cats, so about every day, you awaken to the Question : Where’s the crap today? Now, I ask, "Why is it that the vomit always finds intself on something “new” that was brought in that day previous?" : The cats are completely aware of their surroundings, through what’s real for them : And IT is not “object” but “energy”; they can sniff out “the important” and level the playing field, and the novel carries the most energy.

    What’s my point : The Word or World is one of Energy : yet energy must ‘flow’ to be ‘realized’ -- if ‘energy’ stagnates -- it circulates in irregular vortices, with no overlap, the lapping is critical to the continuoius flow of energy, one mind laps over another creating an overlap, so, our minds are both integrated and related

    Focus on the precise to be truthful

    Focus on the accurate to be factual

    We each select :1i2C with

    I choose ‘precious’ : “precise” :