Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Debunking Religion?

  1. Sep 26, 2003 #1

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    Ok, I realise that we are opening a potential can of worms with this one... I don't intend this as a call to turn S&D into a new religion forum though, but to work out boundaries in case we get the stuff later.

    At which point can we say that a discussion of the religion can be done in this forum, and at which point can it not be?

    My personal opinion is that it does not matter how many people believe in it - an assertion held by many is no more immune than an assertion held by the few. What is the line is the nature of the claim.

    The only things that are debunkable are claims that enter the grounds of science - materialist claims, that can be tested by experiment and logic. Therefore, the religion related threads that post here can only be ones that refer to tangible claims of prophecy etc, and not intangible claims (such as the existence/goodness of god) or historic stories (eg. Noah's ark.) Individual dogma referring to things that can happen now or in the future can be debunked, but religions as a whole, beliefs, or "What The Bible Said" cannot.

    Comments?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2003 #2

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If a claim can be subjected to scientific scrutiny, as in the case of the Shroud or Turin for example, this seems reasonable.
     
  4. Sep 28, 2003 #3
    "not intangible claims"

    that's funny. isn't string theory, with all its hyperdimensional stuff and tiny strings that won't be even close to tangible for many years, if ever, full of intangible claims?

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
  5. Sep 28, 2003 #4
    transsubstantiation

    some people believe that some people can either themselves or by channeling other energy change wine into the blood of christ.

    this is a scientifically challengable claim. one might call it a tangible claim.

    while it would be difficult to know if it was christ's blood in particular without having a bona fide sample of his blood, we could at least tell if the new substance was anything like blood. if yes, that tells us nothing, for that doesn't prove it's the blood of christ. if no, then that would constitute some proof that transsubtantiation doesn't happen. (i mean, we could try it a google many times in the lab and it may always fail but that doesn't PROVE it will not work on the google +1st time. in other words, proving it is impossible is quite different from proving whether anyone can currently do it.)

    after the transsubstantiation, i would suspect that it still smells and tastes like wine. but scientists typically don't trust their senses, right, unless their senses are pointed at an intsrument rather than at the thing itself? has anyone put the fluid after the ceremony in a beaker and analyzed it? i'm sure it has been done many times, in fact, with the evidence supporting the position that it is still wine. i wonder if there has been any investigation on whether it is different in *any* unusual way even if it's not blood.

    then i heard an attempt at a counterargument by a religious person that was somewhat interesting. a small part of the wine, once ingested, eventually gets turned into blood within the body. this was his claim; if true, it would have to be in some convoluted way. but that doesn't prove it's the blood of christ; in fact, it suggests that it's your blood since your body made it. in the gnostic gospel of thomas, jesus said something similar. to paraphrase, he said, "blessed is the lion eaten by a man, for it becomes human."

    it would appear to me that a scientist would have to struggle with that quote. the word "becomes" is ambiguous. perhaps it's not even precise enough of a statement to be tested.

    furthermore, the claim isn't that the wine becomes the blood of christ after it's ingested, but before.

    personally, i'm leaning towards thinking that literal, physical transsubstantiation lacks any scientific support. but a statement like, "the spirit of the wine is changed to the spirit of christ's blood," isn't even approachable, one way or the other, by science. but to then call such a statement pointless, or especially FALSE, is just a matter of personal opinion. everyone has the right to their personal opinion, just don't abuse that priveledge.

    even if the whole scientific community agreed that literal, physical transsubstantiation doesn't seem to ever happen in the lab, that would not, of course, debunk every religion (or even catholicism) nor would it prove God doesn't exist. not saying anyone has ever said that; i'm just stating the obvious here.

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2003
  6. Sep 28, 2003 #5
    "My personal opinion is that it does not matter how many people believe in it"

    i agree with you but i don't think most scientists do.

    why do scientists feel the need to have other scientists agree with them? why does the public only put stock in things scientists (emphasis on the plural form) are in agreement on (i know that's a broad, sweeping generalization)? why is reproducability in other labs important if it doesn't matter how many people believe in it? wouldn't one self-proclaimed expert be enough, then? why do things suddenly get considered fact or almost fact once it has been reproduced in only a hundred thousand labs?

    i think what you meant to intend was that even if everyone on earth was a christian but you, that wouldn't convince you that there is a God. am i right? well, i feel the same way about science and every system of knowledge, especially including religion. i think we agree that popularity is not proof. i say that even though science is very popular here in the west as is religion to an extent.

    a personal opinion. i don't see why science should attempt to debunk religion or religion debunk science (such as the copernicus thing). why should they interact at all? they, to a large extent, seem to be about entirely different subjects. a statement like, "muhammad was a prophet" seems to me unapproachable by science as a statement like, "the universe is eleven dimensional" seems unapproachable by religion.

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2003
  7. Sep 29, 2003 #6

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Re: Debunking Religion?

    Thats not religion, its archeology. There isn't any test that can be done on that shroud that can determine who exactly (if anyone) it covered.

    Applying science to religion is utter fallacy and both sides fall into the trap. It fails because science and religion are wholly incompatible worldviews with religion holding the trump card.

    No scientific evidince can ever mean anything with regard to religion because if there is a God, he can make the evidence look like whatever he wants. Any such discussion of science vs religion ends as soon as someone says "God wants it that way." There is nothing left to discuss.
    Similar fallacy for two reasons.

    One, just because we can't test all of a theory's claims now doesn't mean we never will. In fact, its a virtual requirement that a theory have untestable implications: thats what a prediction is. There is no better way to strengthen a theory than for it to make a prediction that is only much later shown to be true.

    Two, much/most of string theory is tangeable. Its ok if a theory makes impossible to verify claims as long as they aren't completely off the wall and the other claims fit well with existing data.
    Now to qualify my previous statments a little: when religion makes a scientifically testable claim, then it is possible to apply science to religion. But clearly, when such claims are shown to be wrong, it has no bearing whatsoever on the beliefs of the faithful, so its of interest to no one. And when on rare occasion such claims are shown to be right (or at least possible) its taken as proof of the religion. To me this is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty from those who would try to use science to prove their religion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2003
  8. Sep 29, 2003 #7

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Re: Re: Debunking Religion?

    If the thing is only 200 years old wouldn't this pose a problem for the religious interpretation?
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2003
  9. Sep 29, 2003 #8

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Just a question or two of clarification, if I may FZ+:
    1) To what extent do you consider the fields of linguistics, sociology, ethnology, semiotics, etc to be on the same playing field as science?
    2) If any of them are, as we don't have a top level set with any of these names yet, should we?
     
  10. Sep 29, 2003 #9
    "One, just because we can't test all of a theory's claims now doesn't mean we never will. In fact, its a virtual requirement that a theory have untestable implications: thats what a prediction is. There is no better way to strengthen a theory than for it to make a prediction that is only much later shown to be true.

    Two, much/most of string theory is tangeable. Its ok if a theory makes impossible to verify claims as long as they aren't completely off the wall and the other claims fit well with existing data."

    regarding the first paragraph and what came before it that i didn't quote, i don't see the fallacy. i never said the claims can't be tested now. just said they were intangible claims. mainly wanted to point out that religion isn't the only branch of knowledge making intangible claims; science sometimes does, too. and so the requirement in the first posting in this topic that only tangible claims be discussed in this topic makes me wonder what implications that requirement would have if posted in a topic under hyperdimensional space theory.

    i'm all for intangible claims, personally, whether they be about God or 11 dimensions. i'd love to see it all the nifty predictions shown to be true. but i'll stick to the rules and only discuss tangible claims here.

    i completely agree with the statement, "Its ok if a theory makes impossible to verify claims as long as they aren't completely off the wall and the other claims fit well with existing data," but i think that idea applies to religion and philosophy (especially when it comes to the philosophy of mind). i am fully confident that the claim that there is a God is not "completely off the wall." whether it "fits" existing data, i'll let you decide for it seems that that depends on how you look at the data.

    (my whole philosophy on the God issue, however, is that no evidence will *ever* be sufficient to prove God exists to one bound by rational thought and logic. here's an example of why. suppose a being appears claiming to be immortal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. for now, i'll just talk about immortality and omnipotence. that the being is immortal is a tangable claim. what would actually prove it? waiting to see if it ever dies. this requires an infinite amount of time. if you outlive the being, problem solved. if it outlives you, no information. even if it continues to exist for a billion generations, that doesn't mean it will live even one day longer. therefore, it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove that it is immortal. that the being is omnipotent is a tangable claim. what would actually prove it? seeing if it can do anything. even if it can end world hunger over night, shrink the universe to a point, raise the dead, heal the sick, turn water into wine, make the detroit tigers win 162 games next year (which is the hardest task of all thusfar presented), etc., that doesn't prove it can do ANYTHING. after each feat, you can always say the following, "neat trick, how about something bigger?" therefore, it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove that it is omnipotent. with the case of immortality or omnipotence, at some point, you may abandon logic and take a leap of faith; the question is how much circumstantial evidence does the trick. this seems very related to the following decision problem in mathematics: given a random hyperreal number x, can one decide if it is limited or unlimited in a finite amount of time? this is equivalent to the question of whether it can be decide if 1/x is a nonzero infinitesimal in finite time.)

    "Now to qualify my previous statments a little: when religion makes a scientifically testable claim, then it is possible to apply science to religion. But clearly, when such claims are shown to be wrong, it has no bearing whatsoever on the beliefs of the faithful, so its of interest to no one. And when on rare occasion such claims are shown to be right (or at least possible) its taken as proof of the religion. To me this is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty from those who would try to use science to prove their religion."

    does anyone know what impact copernicus had on the faithful? i'm no expert, but i wonder if the church tried to censor the research thinking that it would lead to a major upheaval among the faithful. that is giving the faithful such little credit, btw.

    i don't understand it when the faithful try to prove their religion through science. is the goal to persuade scientists to believe in God? to give their children, living in a society where schools run on the fuel of science and not religion, something more convincing?

    evolution is another challenge to the scientifically testable claim that the earth/universe started in six days and that humans appeared independently of other animals. reminds me of what stephen hawking wrote in "the universe in a nutshell." the pope actually had a meeting with him and others and i think he said the big bang theory was ok to study. i think the happy compromise is the view that God still created it, though the way it grew and evolved as science tells us updates what the bible tells us as if the bible was a version 1.0 and what science is telling us is now like 15.0 (or something).

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
  11. Sep 29, 2003 #10

    megashawn

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    But science makes these claims and produces results. Religion makes these claims, and, well, just makes the claims. There is not one shred of physical evidence to support any religion.

    There, its all debunked, you can all burn your bibles now
     
  12. Sep 29, 2003 #11
    megashawn,

    there is not one shred of physical evidence that there are more than three dimensions.

    by YOUR "logic," this debunks all such theories.

    burn all journals and papers discussing such things as well.

    when it comes to mathematics, theories on arithmetic may be the only thing supportable by physical evidence. you can provide physical evidence for the theorem "1 + 1 = 2." much of mathematics cannot be supported by physical evidence. for example, that there are infinitely many orders of infinity. by YOUR "logic," since there is no physical evidence, this debunks many mathematical theorems. burn all such books as well.

    or perhaps you can explain why lack of physical evidence debunks a theory involving the nonphysical in a more persuasive manner.

    or at least answer this: why does a claim about something that is nonphysical need to be supported by physical evidence?

    in christianity, for example, the theory is that there is a God, a Holy Spirit, and a Jesus. do you really think the first 2/3 of that can be debunked for lack of physical evidence, being about the nonphysical?

    i don't even see how lack of physical evidence DISPROVES even a physical theory. to disprove a physical theory, there would have to be physical evidence to contradict the theory. even under the false premise that religion is a physical theory, is there enough physical evidence to disprove it?

    when cantor was developing his different orders of infinity theories, dedekind raised scathing objections not unlike yours. cantor's response was essentially this: as long as it's internally consistent, it is not an invalid pursuit (not unlike playing chess). (whether it's interesting or useful is another question. many mathematicians, i would say, are in fact completely uninterested in the foundations in mathematics that cantor was involved in.) to that, you'll probably enlighten me as to all the internal inconsitencies of the bible, but that is not by any means what i take to be the main treatise on God that i use. in fact, to me, the bible is essentially useless. like the orders of infinity theory, since string theory is internally consistent (as especially evidenced when the differnt types got unified into M-theory), it is also not an invalid pursuit. i think we can all agree that it is interesting but i don't know if we can all agree that it's useful. it definitely has the potential to be. you spoke of results. perhaps you can enlighten me as to the results of string theory.

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2003
  13. Sep 29, 2003 #12

    megashawn

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hah, wow, that struck a nerve huh? I just want to take this time to point out the big toothed smile at the end, I was joking.

    Sorry, I'll try to be more clear in the future.

    I'll respond to you in a pm later, I think this is exactly what they didn't want to happen with this thread.
     
  14. Sep 30, 2003 #13
    megashawn,

    that smile went unnoticed and changes the whole complexion.

    i guess my remarks may be applicable to the whole "tangibility" requirement of the thread.

    i don't think the tangible claims make up the heart of religion and therefore restricting to them won't give tons of insight.

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
  15. Sep 30, 2003 #14

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Just a quick note on this (rhetorical?) question of yours.
    A: reproducability is one of the touchstones of the scientific method. Generalising like crazy, 'if it ain't reproducable, it ain't science' ... no matter how many people believe (or not).
     
  16. Sep 30, 2003 #15

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    But we sure can rule out an awful lot of people!:smile:

    For instance, it didn't cover anyone who died between 200 BC and 200 AD.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2003
  17. Sep 30, 2003 #16

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Are you sure?
    There, physical evidence that there are more than 3 dimensions, if only because "The 10-dimensional IIB string theory" is a phrase in the English language which has meaning to both its speaker and at least one of its hearers (oh, and it's written down, so we can validate the statement for ourselves - it's 'reproducable').

    But I don't think you mean this kind of physical evidence; so, would you be so kind as to state clearly what kind of physical evidence you do mean?
     
  18. Sep 30, 2003 #17

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Debunking Religion?

    Nope. Not one little bit.
    According to whom? You guys are falling into the same trap. I've said in other threads: applying science to religion is fallacy. To those who matter - those with religious convictions - science has nothing to say of any relevance (unless of course it says what they want it to say). Radiocarbon dating (or any other scientific evidence) will not ever convince a religious person there is no God.
    Fair enough, phoenix - I'd say that requirement is flawed.
     
  19. Sep 30, 2003 #18

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    {This is a reference to answers to Russ' statement that "There isn't any test that can be done on that shroud that can determine who exactly (if anyone) it covered."}

    Perhaps just a tad black and white Russ? Aren't there millions of people who don't really know, who aren't sure, whose religious convictions are weak and wobbly? Among these millions aren't there many who are curious about the validity of various religious claims? Who wonder if those really clever scientists and engineers who brought them nice cars, mobile phones (translation for our American cousins: "cellphones"), and the internet have looked into what that rather stained, old-looking piece of cloth is?

    And when it comes to therapeutic stem cell research (for example), doesn't this abdication start to get in the way of doing really helpful research?
     
  20. Sep 30, 2003 #19
    FZ+ "My personal opinion is that it does not matter how many people believe in it - an assertion held by many is no more immune than an assertion held by the few. What is the line is the nature of the claim."

    phoenixthoth "why is reproducability in other labs important if it doesn't matter how many people believe in it?"

    Nereid "Just a quick note on this (rhetorical?) question of yours.
    A: reproducability is one of the touchstones of the scientific method. Generalising like crazy, 'if it ain't reproducable, it ain't science' ... no matter how many people believe (or not)."

    the question wasn't rhetorical. it was meant for FZ+. the thing is, i completely agree with what he's saying. another way to ask the question is this: if it doesn't matter how many people believe in it (a scientific theory or result, for example), why would testing it out in other labs have ANY importance when you've already proven it to yourself?

    i guess the tacit conclusion i'm not making clear is that FZ+'s statment when combined with what Nereid pointed out reveals that FZ+'s statment contradicts "one of the touchstones of the scientific method." in other words, i would say that a scientist does care how many people (scientists, mainly) believe in it.

    regarding the shroud thing: we'll NEVER be able to prove it was the shroud of jesus. even if we did, that doesn't prove jesus was the son of God. nor would it verify such things like jesus turning water into wine. in my mind, searching for that shroud is a useless endeavor and a complete waste of time. so what if radiocarbon dating narrows it down to a 400 year window surrounding 0AD? that "evidence" should be the new definition of CIRCUMSTANTIAL in the next edition of the oxford english dictionary. granted, it rules out millions, actually billions, of people, but all it does is narrow it down to however many people lived on earth between -200 and 200. the shroud issue should be put to rest. may it rest in peace.

    a side question: what about "labs" that are unique, such as a new kind of particle accelerator that is the only of its kind. are results obtained in that unique lab where reproducability is impossible viewed upon with ANY credibility AT ALL? if so, that would seem to be a direct contradiction to the scientific method. all results obtained should be viewed as conjectures to be in line with the scientific method.

    cheers,
    phoenix
     
  21. Sep 30, 2003 #20

    FZ+

    User Avatar

    Oh boy, I did open a can of worms here.

    True. That's why it is open to debunking here. Note the context of my post. I was not arguing for the superiority of tangible claims - I was arguing for some sort of tangible link to reality to make the hypothesis scientific - in terms of String/M-theory, this consistutes seeking certain specific polarisation patterns in the CMB and looking for additional dimensions with various telescopes, neutrino detectors and so forth, whilst constantly searching for additional implications. A hypothesis that lacks this tangibility is not automatically false. It smply cannot be dealt with in the context of the S&D forum, and so we should avoid arguments regarding it - it does, as Greg rightfully concluded, lead only to a case of clashing opinions.
    The tangibility marker is a method of determining where the debate belongs. Intangibility does not doom the idea, nor elevate it. It does make it unscientific and inherently indeterminate, however.

    Before you spot it, I will point out that science itself, in accordance perhaps with Godel, cannot be "a scientific theory". But it works damned well, and no one has come up with an alternative yet. :wink:

    Become science is a characterised by the flow of ideas. And no, ideas do not consistute a belief, as it is simultaneously essential that theories should receive skepticism, and a will to challenge. What the spread of science ensures is to allow a maximal amount of input from all sectors, and the facility for the maximum amount of objective evidence.

    But now focus on the exact wording I used: "an assertion held by many is no more immune than an assertion held by the few".

    You have been barking up the metaphorical tree. Scientists seek to spread their ideas because to be credible scientific theory, the theory must not be immune. In fact, it is in the interest of scientists to make theory as least immune as possible, exposing all possible flaws in the theory - and that is part of the reason why science spreads. What I am saying is the popularity of GR does not make it immune from debunking - and indeed attempted debunkings and editings of GR continue, even accelerating nowadays (String theory is one such attempt). You have mistaken me for suggesting the opposite.

    A theory is like a car. Even if it's never going to turn into a porsche, it's good taking it out for a test drive, isn't it? Don't buy from dodgy dealers...

    This is what I was seeking to address. I agree perfectly with Greg over the abolition of the Religion forum, but I seek to sharpen up what we mean by religion here. When a religion takes on the mantle of science and makes a claim in the territory that can be dealt with by science, that claim can be discussed regardless of whether it constitutes someone's belief system. What is not arguable - and indeed by nature pointless to argue - in something only in terms of someone's belief. Eg. Christians are good. Atheism is evil. God is called Jehovah. God is better than Santa Claus.

    This says absolutely zilch about whether or not they are true.

    Nereid:
    Tough question, especially as I know little about these fields. To a degree, I think these subjects occupy a little of both - there can be the mechanics and history of each process, which is tangible and arguable by reference to evidence. But to a degree there present some judgement in these fields, and to those debates, there are no right answers.

    Can you clarify what you mean by this?
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2003
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Debunking Religion?
  1. Debunking Debunkers (Replies: 27)

  2. Debunking the debunkers (Replies: 24)

  3. Debunk this dream (Replies: 14)

Loading...