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Too much credit February 21, 2011

Posted by Ian in Religion, Science.

Science is often given far too much credit for offering understanding of the world.  What science is very good at is describing the world we see around us in almost incomprehensible detail and while we have a long way to go to fully describing it, we have done a very good job of this so far and science should, in my view, be regarded as the systematic method we have adopted for managing this process.  If you want to know how things are, ask science.

This leaves a big gap for people to play in that science doesn’t appear to deal with.  Anything that doesn’t apparently fall into a descriptive mode becomes fair game for any other mode of discourse that feels so inclined.  Philosophy, religion, and other related modes leap to mind.  The problem that they face is that, when practiced for long enough the non-descriptive ideas they generate gain a life of their own and this is where they get given too much credit.  To take an example, let us consider the idea of an afterlife.  This idea has developed so much thought over the years that discussing it feels like a natural thing to do.  But in reality merely discussing the idea in a non-hypothetical way is already giving the idea too much credit.

I think it is important to be brutally realistic about what we really know and not to let ideas, however seemingly benign, dictate what we think.


1. peddiebill - February 21, 2011

I have attempted my own version of looking at near death experiences as evidence for life after death and perhaps unsurprisingly concluded there is only ambiguous evidence at best. However I note in passing that when religion is criticised it is usually of the fundamentalist type and I have posted a number of essays relating to progressive Christianity which in my view makes more intellectual sense
Bill Peddie: http://billpeddie.wordpress.com

2. Ian - February 21, 2011

Thanks Bill. I agree there are a lot of Christians who tend to believe things far less extreme than that of fundamentalists. I tend to argue a lot of atheists get this stuff wrong let alone the more progressive Christians. For me the so-called “fundies” aren’t really worth engaging – it is those who hold religious beliefs but are willing to have meaningful discussion that I enjoy engaging with.

I note there are many posts on your blog covering a wide range of topics; were there particular posts you’d like me to read relating to your comment/this post?

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