Re: On credulity and religion
Sat, 13 Jul 1996 20:09:48 -0700

Bryant wrote:

>>Shall we also list the dismal failures of science? I've already provided
>>a list of the successes in some aspects of religion.

> I'm sorry, I missed that (was it earlier in this thread?). Could you
> mention a few of religion's successes in describing the physical world again?

> >I've also pointed out that science and religion are not mutually
> >exclusive.

Any attempt to desribe natural phenomena is by definition science, not
religion. Limiting response to description also seems biased. If you
want a list of religious contributions to science, it can be long.

Just the historical aspects to start:

Pythagoreans seemed to have come up with some good ideas. Their number
theories opened the gates for the development of mathematics and their
cosmology was the basis of attempts to discover the shape of the earth
and laws governing heavenly bodies. Not bad for a religious cult.

Actually, if we were to get down to it, complex geometry, cosmology, and
scientific method were developed by Greeks. All with religious agendas.
Well, not all. Democritus and a handful of others insisted on
distinguishing the two. In fact, it is from this distinction that
science was defined as inquiry into the natural and physical universe in
the 19th century.

Measurements of time, arithmatic, geometry, and astronomy date back to
the Babylonians and Sumerians who developed such systems as a part of
religious thought.

Then we have Taoist alchemy and herbal remedies from which much of our
pharmacopia still draws. Unlike the Europeans, who were looking for such
things a methods of turning base metals into gold (a predicessor to
chemistry), the Taoists were looking for elixers of health, longetivity,
and others. The result was a pharamalogical practice which was far in
advance of that found in Europe. And the basis for this? To become
'hsien', immortal.

The Hindus, with their sense of practicality, provided much to Islam in
the form of algebra and arithmatics. Islam in turn transmitted that
knowledge to Europe. The best of these, the Arabic numeric system and
the Hindu model of astronimical tables. Muslim introductions include
optics, medicine, surgery and alchemy. Both Islam and Hinduism
incorporate science and religion. For example, Muslims believe that
nature contains 'signs', and that the discovery of those signs brings
one closer to God. Thus, science is an important aspect of religion.

However, these are all scientific models developed under religious
influence. As I pointed out, science and religion are not the same. They
seek to explain two totally different aspects. Religion cannot develop a
scientific model because the mere act of doing so is science and not
religion. Science in turn cannot develop religious models because this
would not be science (although cosmology is still prevalent in science).

> Agreed. They're not. Until religionists and mystics try to compete with
> scientific world views (i.e., propose geological theories based on a
> literal interpretation of Genesis). As long as religion sticks to poetry
> and ethics, science is not a challenge to such outlooks.

You obviously have no concept of the broad spectrum of this thing called
religion. Religion and science are two totally different areas of
inquiry. They do however share common concerns. Much of modern science
originates in Christian attempts to rationalize these concerns. However,
such rationalization is not necessary in most religions.

Scientific enquiry is common in many religions. Just as religious
beliefs are held by many scientists. The two do not conflict. And the
introduction of biased belief systems into a supposed 'rational'
discussion is not limited to just people with religious viewpoints. To
support this argument, I suggest you read some of your own posts.