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God and physics

  1. Feb 26, 2005 #1
    "God" and physics

    I hear that most physicists are either atheist/agnostics? What is general feeling of theists within the scientific community? Is theism considered incompatible with good science? Is atheism "intellectually honest", or would it be more of a higher intrinsic intellecutally honest value to be agnostic. To follow a life paradigm from an agnostic viewpoint? Or is this an unfair juxtaposition? Do many of you consider theism to be a hinderance to a unbiased view on cosmology and astrophysics?

    Last question. With the advent of Hawking's "no boundary proposal" along with what seemingly is a contradictory "timeless space" model offered is the cosmological argument for the big bang existence of God no longer a viable option? Would it be completely illogical to assume space time to be co-existant and that a "space' or even "deity" could be outside of space/time?

    okay real last question: Is faith in God a viable way of gaining knowledge? Or is simply enough to say all knowledge of God we gain is through the creation? ie. All we can know about God is through Scientific analysis of his creation.

    p.s. I'm studying to be an EE, so most of this is done from independant study and convo. Hence, I have much more questions and am interested in thoughts rather then giving my own answers. :smile:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2005 #2
    The religious scientists I've known have strictly divorced their religion from science. It's two seperate worlds, and never the twain shall meet. They are also never literal adopters of their religion, or fundamentalists in other words, because that would make them look quite ridiculous.

    I'm assuming by atheism you mean belief in non-existence of a god, and agnosticism as lack of belief in a god. In that sense, you could say that agnosticism is more "intellectually honest" than atheism, but perhaps it is more honest to admit one's gut feelings (which might be derived from intellectual considerations) on a matter than to not have an opinion at all.

    Hawking's "no boundary proposal" still leaves wiggle room for a god or god(s). And anyway, as long as such things are nothing more than sophisticated speculations without a shred of evidence, there will be plenty of room for a god to weave his/her/its twisted brand of universal infamy and selective cruelty.

    Is faith in a god a viable way of gaining knowledge? Of course not! To base a knowledge system completely on faith is a recipe for complete disaster. Doubt is the road to knowledge, not faith. But even with doubt, we humans are extremely limited in what we can achieve in the pursuit of knowledge, so one thing I suppose we can learn from some religious practioners is humility.
  4. Feb 26, 2005 #3


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    As for the humility thing mentioned by cragwolf, I've never seen that trait displayed by fundamentalists; I've only seen it in those religious individuals who are loath to make dogmas out of their beliefs.

    I've met plenty of humble non-religious persons, though; chiefly among agnostics.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2005
  5. Feb 26, 2005 #4
    And they care about how they look, do they?

    I like this point.

    Perhaps airkapp is referring to intellectual openness, rather than "honesty", but I still think you make a very good point, cragwolf.

    Airkapp was talking about a being that existed independent of space and time (which is what you get from the weird concept that god created all things, and that that includes space and time). The truth is, if you were talking about the Biblical or Christian God, then this would be a moot point as that God is described as having "form" and position (he is thus "space-dependent"). As to creating "time"...well, how long do you think that would take? How long could He have existed before that? The Bible's God doesn't require the ridiculous results of these lines of reasoning, but I suppose other gods might.

    Testify, brutha! Glory hallelujah!

    You sure of that? How sure?
  6. Feb 26, 2005 #5
    Of course! They are normal human beings in this respect. The respect of their peers is very important. But also they see the fundamental stupidity of strictly literal readings of religious texts, given what we've (think we've) learnt about the world through science (which is what they practice, after all).

    Well, we can play that game of extreme skepticism and conclude that we can't be sure of anything. And then get into an infinite regress when we ask how sure we are of that. And so on. I'm sorry, but that bores me. I'm interested in science not because it leads to Truth, 100%, but because it leads to a very rich source of knowledge, and applying this knowledge we can get reproducable effects out of the world that often seem astonishing. Like, for example, a cure for a previously deadly disease; a way to get to Europe from Australia in under a day; a way to communicate almost instantly with someone in Bratislava, Slovakia; a way to accurately predict when Venus will next transit the face of the Sun; a machine that carries out calculations many orders of magnitude faster than any human could ever do; extraordinarily complicated mathematical structures dwarfing in complexity any previous human idea. Compared to these sorts of things, what has a belief in God produced or given us? Very little. The only thing I can think of is comfort for people who crave certainty and/or are always sure of themselves.

    Which brings me back to the point about humility. Because that's where doubt springs from. I am but a single human out of billions who have existed, on a single planet around a single star out of countless many, living in a vast universe with many things in it, and I am going to make some general theory about the universe and the things in it, and deem it to be true with 100% certainty? Pull the other one! Original knowledge is extremely difficult to generate and is unlikely to come from someone as average as me (and nearly all of you). That's what exasperates me about idiotic crackpots who come here or on newsgroups proposing their universal theory of everything which proves Einstein wrong. What supreme arrogance! Where do they get the gall to do that? Scientists are only human, and partake in their share of arrogant behaviour, but their humility is Christ-like (that's Christ the legend, not necessarily Christ the man) compared to the average crackpot.
  7. Feb 26, 2005 #6
    As an experiment I put the word "doubt" into the Amazon search engine and it returned 1,002 books. The word "faith" in the same search engine returned 20,812 books. A 20-to-1 ratio in favour of faith over doubt. I wonder what sort of a world we would have if that ratio was reversed? My gut feeling is a saner and healthier one.
  8. Feb 26, 2005 #7
    Well, I know religious debate is not allowed but if anyone's interested I spend quite a bit of time over www.christianforums.com in the general apologetics section. They can use a bit of rationale and logic to fill their minds, and it seems that there's a bit of that over here. I still can't believe there's an "evolution/creation" debate. Not to go off tangent, but I try to be "Christ-like" and I consider myself to be an extremely liberal Christian although I typically side with atheist/agnostic and debate fundamentalists quite a bit. Hope to catch some on the fly over there.
  9. Mar 1, 2005 #8

    That was not my intention. I was wondering if you put absolute faith in the concept that it is wrong to put absolute faith in concepts.

    If one takes the Bible (for example) as a true history, then the worship of God was a rich source of knowledge for the Jews, and the application of their knowledge led to miracles on their behalf.

    Well, I never said that belief in God gave us anything. Belief in science doesn't give us anything either. It's putting that belief to practice that has produced results (as has the worshipping of God, according to certain histories).

    The God of the Bible is said to have cured diseases, transported people from one place to another, along with many other "fantastic feats". Whether or not these are true is as irrelevant as whether our descendants believe in cellphones.

    Note: I'm not saying that the God of the Bible, or any other god, should be taken as literally real, or that the Bible is a source of absolute truth. However, I am saying that no one seems to have even considered it as a possibility. That people only look at the belief of the faithful, rather than what it is they believe in, seems like bad form.
  10. Mar 4, 2005 #9
    I think learning is more based on faith(trust) than doubt. It generally isn't possible to educate somone who refuses to trust anything you say. Once a relationship of trust is built, further evidence can be presented to re-enforce the original information. This is why most scientists desire credability in their profession.
  11. Mar 17, 2005 #10
    Faith ground in fiction is certainly bunk. But faith based on truth is most definitely not a lost cause. It's only by our knowledge of the properties inherent in the universe that we are able to conjecture with any true basis. This is the guiding principle in mathematics and axiomatics: to base proofs on self-evident truths and not on flimsy conjecture.

    Despite the lack of objectivity in most scientists, God is not inconsistent with science. The theory of evolution is an example of a reformation to disprove the existence of God by means of science. However, the very basis of it places it more in the realm of fallacy than fact. The mathematical probability of evolution is so incredibly small that it becomes impossible by scientific standards. If you ever punch something in the calculator and end up with something like 1 E-9872 you know that zero is a good approximation.

    Those who have taken up the task of disproving the Bible have actually proven it by contradiction, as is the case in archaeology and the historical record of events in the Bible. The fact that every historical event and scientific postulation in the Bible are accurate, and that thousands of years before modern science, should be plenty of ground for faith.

    As applaudable as science is, it rarely makes a pure affirmation on anything. Most of it resides in theory as this allows room for any mistakes, which is something that everyone should support. It's very smart and allows for room on corrections. But the Bible has made definite and clear statements concerning the natural world. And still it remains uncontradicted or disproven.

    My two cents
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2005
  12. Mar 17, 2005 #11
    The closer you look at the Universe on the one side and particles on the other side and start analysing and finding parallels in those two extrems you will find the unanswered questions in physics are solvable.

    I am well on my way just doing that and found out that in the begining there was a very clever Universal Engineer - if we are just a side effect or a design or a mistake of His engineering that question I will leave for others to answer.

    Also analyse the words "I believe" - means nothing more than "I do not know but would like to have it that way for the easy way out"

    and "I have faith in you" = "I believe in you" = "I follow blindly without asking questions"

    to sum up "When blind man who is helped by a stranger to cross a busy street, he belives that his helper does not want to commit suicide"

    sorry folks - I might have taken this too far - I appologise to those who might be offended.

    As a scientist I would like to say "I know" or "observable facts and figures prove"
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2005
  13. Mar 18, 2005 #12
    :rofl: Agreed.

    Religion has no place in science. Leave it to the philosophers.
  14. Mar 18, 2005 #13


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    The principle of natural selection, for example, means that evolution is not a random process in the probabilistic sense of the word.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2005
  15. Mar 18, 2005 #14
    I'm sure you all know about talk.origins? The problem with those who deny evolution due to "mathematical impossibility" is that they aren't obeying the evolutionary model. They are doing the Creationist Model, which is nothing but a straw man that allows only for one mutation per species per generation.

    What REALLY happens is that every creature in the species suffers from such mutations and that the beneficial ones are kept while the rest are tossed. Natural selection!
  16. Mar 18, 2005 #15
    Try the view of biology

    And yet it remains unobservable? Scientists have looked at scores of generations of fruit flies for years and have yet to find a foundational change in their genetic composition.

    As far as biology is concerned, it is impossible for an organism to function without all the necessary systems. But from an evolutionary standpoint there is a gradual change in the genetic and physiological composition of an organism. You can't put half a heart or half a pancreas into a body and expect it to operate correctly. It's either there or it isn't gonna work.

    You guys are all familiar with Mendel's experiement with pea pods from high school, right? Through the use of Punnett squares we were able to see what could result from two organisms from their dominant and recessive genes. I assert that "natural selection" depends solely on the genes an organism has inherited.
  17. Mar 19, 2005 #16
    I don't understand what evolution has got to do with the existence of God. Science is repeatedly proved wrong and replaced with better theories but as soon as one religion is proved wrong over some people's interpretation of something, apparrently this means that God doesn't exist at all! If I were to reciprocate this behavior, I would claim that because our understanding of the big bang has changed over the years, it never happened. This is dumb.
  18. Mar 19, 2005 #17
    It is also very frustrating to hear non-scientists keep making the same poor claims about science over and over.
  19. Mar 19, 2005 #18


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    It sounds like you tune in to the same sorts of radio programs that I do, though without the same degree of skepticism.

    I think it was at PF that one member "proved" that it was the Q'ran, not the Bible, that meshes perfectly with what science has only recently discovered. This person quoted something from the Q'ran about the heavens being stitched to the Earth. That's the Big Bang theory, written for the consumption of desert-dwelling nomads. Can't you see that?
  20. Mar 19, 2005 #19


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    Aggregates of a unicellular organism exist with a wide range of functional differentiation among the member cells.
    In the most "primitive" of such aggregates, every member cell does the functions necessary for its own survival, with a minimal amount of interaction between the member cells.
    Further up on the hierarchy, specialization has occured in various ways; an individual member cell may have shut down some of its essential functions, and depends upon other members in the aggregate to perform these.

    Your example with "half a heart" is merely a testament to your naivite and ignorance.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2005
  21. Mar 19, 2005 #20
    I'm all for the just science, just religion, and the mixers. Though, I get far more upset with atheists attacking religion. It's like a disease on the internet. You'd think 80% of the world were hateful atheists.

    i'm most happy with the mixers though.
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