Re: Returned mail: Host unknown (fwd)

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Mon, 9 Oct 1995 13:22:42 +1000

BM Howell writes:
> I think it is a little offensive to accuse someone who has posted a
> thoughtful reply (whether or not you agree) as joking.

I was just defending myself in case it *is* a troll :-).

> > What about the large number of religions where participation by outsiders
> > is either impossible or discouraged?

> I don't know what religions you are referring to (probably traditional,
> localized religions?) but all major world religions, with the exception
> of Judaism (and not even every form of it) is evangelistic. Clearly,
> they expect or would like "outsiders" to participate.

Sure. Religions vary from aggresively evangelistic to complete
disinterest in making converts. (I would disagree with your "all major
world religions", however, as most Buddhist groups, not to mention
many major Christian groups, are not at all evangelistic.) Also,
even inside groups that are nominally evangelistic (say Anglicanism
or Catholicism), most individuals are not at all evangelistic.

This is all quite irrelevant to science/religion comparison, anyway.

> First of all, I don't know what kind of creationists you have in
> Australia, but over here they (and I refer to official creationist
> organizations) are VERY willing (almost annoyingly so in my opinion) to
> engage evolutionists at every turn.

Creationists here are a much smaller minority than in the US, and
so much less vocal. However most of what I know about creationism
is about US creationism, so I stand by what I wrote. Check out the
newsgroup one day, and watch the creationists steadfastly
refuse to respond to their opponents' arguments, while continuing to
post claims that have been discredited hundreds of times already.

> Secondly, mainstream Christian
> theology (particularly mission theology) is fundamentally based on a
> notion that the historical claims of Christianity and the subjective
> Christian experience are communicable between individuals and cultures
> and that these historical and theological claims can be "tested" on the
> individual, subjective level to which D. Read clearly referred.

> Read did not say that religion and science were the SAME in terms of how
> verification is carried out, only that verification, "testability" and
> other "scientific concepts" are also employed in religion in analogous
> ways.

Read wasn't the author of the message I replied to originally, so you
may be attributing someone else's beliefs to him. (I'm not sure of that,
but this doesn't read right.)

Very few religion (none that I can name) subject their doctrines to
"testing" or verification. This doesn't mean that there aren't lots
of Christian scholars doing historical/scientific work on Biblical
studies, of course, but I never claimed that religion and science
were *incompatable*!

> Your statement regarding religions claiming "palpably ridiculous
> things" and the general disassociation of religion from "intellectual
> aspects" betrays your obvious belief that religion is unintellectual.

*Most* religious belief has non-intellectiual motivation. This does
not mean that religion is unintellectual. Indeed, some religions
have extremely sophisticated intellectual traditions going back many
millenia (Judaism, for example, or Therevada Buddhism). This doesn't
hide the fact that *some* religions assert things which are undeniably
indefensible on rational grounds. Anyone for an argument about
transubstantiation, or about the Trinity, perhaps? :-)

> I
> think the intellectual depth and richness of the most "successful" religions
> (in terms of adherents) flatly contradicts your statement. Your contempt
> for religion (and, I would say, religious people) is thinnly veiled and
> prevents you from seeing the "faith" you exercise in holding to the
> fundamental value of scientism/materialism over spirituality.

I have no contempt for religion or for religious people (indeed,
a majority of my friends are Christians of one kind or another).
I do think that statements to the effect that there is no fundamental
epistemological distinction between religion and science are pretty
hard to defend, however, and most of the religious people I know
would agree with me. It all smacks of the pathetic "equal time"
arguments of the creationists.