Thursday, June 11, 2009

History is Bunk

A physicist talks about religion
That’s why it’s equally crazy to believe that science and religion are two distinct, non-overlapping magisteria that simply never address the same questions. That bizarre perspective was advanced by Stephen Jay Gould in Rocks of Ages, but if you read the book carefully you find that his definition of “religion” is simply “moral philosophy.” Which is not what the word means, or how people use it, or how actual religious people think of their beliefs. Religion makes claims about the real world, and some of those claims — not all — can be very straightforwardly judged by the criteria of science. We do not need to invoke spirits being breathed into fertilized eggs in order to understand life, for example. And the fact that science has taught us so much about the workings of the world has enormous consequences for how we should think about moral and ethical questions, even if it can’t answer such questions all by itself.
My comments on the page were in response to others' more than the post, which I'd only skimmed. But then I looked at it again.

Over the course of human history the function of religion has been social order and continuity. All truth is social truth. But when science is seen as undermining community then religion is ideologized in a defensive response as asocial truth. Any anthropologist will tell you this but those who ideologlize their own capacity for reason find it easier to examine the patterns others ascribe to themselves rather than those that are clearly more important for the understanding of their behavior. If you are not willing to imagine the possibility of your own predisposition, preferences, habits or the subtext to your own thoughts -call it the unconscious if you want, but if not, not- then you are not able to imagine them in others, even when doing so you would allow you to see the patterns of behavior very clearly.

Similarly, modern secular law is first of all a formal system of behavior regulation, not a formal system for determining truth.
From comments: s.e.
We makes rules and then we follow them even when they lead to decisions that do not follow from the truth, but which preserve a sense of formal and thus moral balance, When we want to change them we or our elected representatives go through all sorts of convoluted rituals to make sure we accept [should be 'agree on'] the new terms. My interpretation of this logic requires me to be a defender of the decision by the US Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. But I am also not a defender of the decision by the Catholic Church in Galileo v. Holy Trinity
There’s a bit of a disjunction, but I think it’s necessary. Others don't.

I like this one: Chomsky will go down in history as a great amateur reporter of facts who spent his professional career attacking their importance. Said it before.

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