A Conversation for The Tension Between Science and Religion
Insight Started conversation Apr 29, 2002
The Bible states that faith is 'the assured expection of things hoped for'. By assured, it basically means proven (although in those days, prophecies coming true was considered proof enough, while it may not be today).
Paul actually commented the Boreans on their 'carefully examining the scriptures daily as to whether these things were truly so', that is, for questioning what they were told.
So while some religions say require unquestioning faith, the teaching is not Bible-based.
Hoovooloo Posted Apr 29, 2002
Leaving aside for a moment that I DID SAY "Religion", not "Christianity" or "the Bible"...
Prophecies coming true was taken as proof, was it? A few examples of prophecy then, from the Christian Bible.
In Genesis, God says that if Adam eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then the day that he does so, he will die. Adam does so, and lives for another 930 years. I'm not sure, really, how much more wrong it was possible for God to be, right there.
Genesis again... Chapter 46:3-4 - God promises to bring Jacob safely back from Egypt, but Jacob dies in Egypt (Gen.47:28-29)
In 2 Kg.22:20 God promises Josiah that he will have a peaceful death. But Josiah's death was anything but peaceful. (2 Kg.23:29-30, 2 Chr.35:23-24)
Book of Jeremiah, 3:17, Jeremiah prophesies that all nations of the earth will embrace Judaism. Oh yeah? Same book, 5:12-13: prophets that preach good news and tidings anger God. So he will kill them. Cheers for that, God. Nice one.
Deuteronomy 6:16 "Ye shall not tempt the Lord thy God." But James Ch1, verse 13 says that God cannot be tempted. Other translations of the Bible try to explain this away as having it mean "Ye shall not TEST the Lord thy God". Why not? In case he fails? Like he did when he predicted Adam's death, Jacob's safe return, Josiah's peaceful passing and the worldwide take-up of Judaism? I can see why God doesn't like to be tested...
Insight Posted Apr 30, 2002
God has mentioned many times that 'a day' has little meaning for him. The same is true in a number of biblical statements, and it is once said that a day to him is as a thousand years. So when he prophecies about a day, it is rarely literal. But Adam died, and the process started when he ate the fruit. If he had not, he would not have died.
Jacob himself was brought out of Egypt after his death to be buried with his ancestors (Genesis 47:30). But it is unlikely that the scripture meant Jacob literally anyway, since God had just said he would make Jacob there into a great nation. The great nation was probably what God was referring to.
Jehovah promised Josiah that he would be 'in peace', because he would not see Jerusalem fall during his lifetime.
Since I am currently in college, I don't have my references available to confirm the meaning of Jeremiah 3:17, but Judaism is not mentioned in it. I expect it is referring to the future, to the heavenly 'New Jerusalem' mentioned in Revelation 21:2.
In Jeremiah 5:12-13, prophets are preaching falsely about God. Isn't it understandable that God is angry about this, and will get rid of those who are misleading people?
(God is going to bring armageddon, whereas you, being atheist, could be said to be among those saying, "He is not. And upon us no calamity will come, and no sword or famine shall we see." I don't expect you to take notice of this, but hey, my god-assigned job isn't to make people listen, it's to make sure the warning is there for them to listen to if they wish.)
James 1:13 says that when under trial noone should say 'I am being tried by God', for with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he try anyone. From the beginning of the verse, we can discern what is meant in this context by being 'tried', it is being put under pressure or in pain, either physically or mentally. Clearly it is not possible to hurt God to try to break his strength.
As for Deuteronomy 6:16 ("You must not put Jehovah your God to the test"), often when people in the wilderness were disobedient, Moses accused them of 'putting Jehovah to the test', which sheds some light on their meaning of putting someone to the test as meaning the same as 'testing my patience'.
I know all this is unlikely to change your views, but I must put the truth here for any visitors to see.
Hoovooloo Posted Apr 30, 2002
>I know all this is unlikely to change your views, but I must put the truth here for any visitors to see.
Laudable, if pessimistic (or possibly realistic...). But "truth"? Your opening line was an interesting one:
"God has mentioned many times that 'a day' has little meaning for him."
Where has God mentioned this, himself? Nowhere, of course. PEOPLE have mentioned it, people who claim to be speaking for God. The TRUTH is that *some* of God's followers in the distant past have written books and made prophecies and used the word "day". When these books have been subsequently shown to be inaccurate or simply false, other followers of God have tried to rationalise this by pleading, as you do, along the lines of "oh, well, when he SAID day, he MEANT year, or decade, or millenium, or whatever it takes to make it less obviously nonsense." If a concept as simple and obvious as "a day" has little meaning for God, why should we expect him to have any better grip on other simple human concepts like life, death, love, hate etc?
"The same is true in a number of biblical statements, and it is once said that a day to him is as a thousand years."
By whom? And why, if that is the case, do Christian fundamentalists insist on the LITERAL interpretation of the Bible, which places the creation in October 4004BC?
"So when he prophecies about a day, it is rarely literal."
Why not? Is being literal so difficult?
"But Adam died, and the process started when he ate the fruit. If he had not, he would not have died."
Speculation. You don't even have God's word for that, directly, just the word of the guy who wrote the book. If this is a guy who you yourself have pointed out can't even use the word "day" accurately, why do you believe anything else he's written?
"Jacob himself was brought out of Egypt after his death to be buried with his ancestors (Genesis 47:30)."
I'm sure that was a great comfort to him.
"But it is unlikely that the scripture meant Jacob literally anyway, since God had just said he would make Jacob there into a great nation. The great nation was probably what God was referring to."
So, I ask again, why didn't he just say so?
"Jehovah promised Josiah that he would be 'in peace', because he would not see Jerusalem fall during his lifetime."
Well, I'll have some things to say later about prophecies about what will and won't happen in people's lifetime...
"Since I am currently in college, I don't have my references available to confirm the meaning of Jeremiah 3:17"
And you can't find an online Bible?!
>(God is going to bring armageddon, whereas you, being atheist, could be said to be among those saying, "He is not. And upon us no calamity will come, and no sword or famine shall we see." I don't expect you to take notice of this, but hey, my god-assigned job isn't to make people listen, it's to make sure the warning is there for them to listen to if they wish.)
This is an interesting position to take. I suppose you could see me in the position of false prophet. In which case, I'm forced to wonder why I'm not, as the false prophets in the Book of Jeremiah, "as the wind". Yet. And as for the likelihood of you changing my mind, my mind, I can say honestly, is open. Offer me proof, and I will recant. Offer me reason, and I WILL believe. On the other hand, I'm conversing with someone who believes they have a job assigned to them by God. Is there *any* point conversing with such a person, beyond a base curiosity about what such a person believes? You may think it unlikely I will change my mind, but you stand condemned out of your own, erm, fingers, as being absolutely unwilling to ever consider changing yours.
"As for Deuteronomy 6:16 ("You must not put Jehovah your God to the test"), often when people in the wilderness were disobedient, Moses accused them of 'putting Jehovah to the test', which sheds some light on their meaning of putting someone to the test as meaning the same as 'testing my patience'."
OK, paraphrasing: this DOESN'T mean you shouldn't test God's powers. It DOES mean you shouldn't p**s him off. Wise words indeed. However, if it's OK to test God's powers, how do you or any other believer explain his repeated failure to pass tests? The repeated failure of prophecies to come true? The repeated failure of the Biblical view of reality to conform to actual reality as we experience it?
As I say, I'm under no illusions here. You think I'm not likely to change my mind, which is true. I KNOW you aren't going to change your mind, and that pointing this stuff out is a complete waste of my time. You say you are certain in your faith, and if so, good for you if it makes you behave more tolerantly towards other people. But if you want TRUTH, as in literal, mean-what-you-say and say-what-you-mean truth which conforms to the reality most of us agree on, the Bible seems, according to your own analysis, a pretty poor place to start looking.
Insight Posted Apr 30, 2002
< it is once said that a day to him is as a thousand years." By whom? And why, if that is the case, do Christian fundamentalists insist on the LITERAL interpretation of the Bible, which places the creation in October 4004BC?>
First of all, congratulations on your grammar (By whom? ). Psalms 90:4 says "For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday," and in case you're thinking that's just poetic licence (being in the Psalms), the same idea is given in 2 Peter 3:8 : "one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day."
But the reason may be simpler. For a view on how the Hebrews might have taken it, here is an excerpt from Strongs expository dictionary, which is laid out in a rather confusing way, but :
day, time, year
a. day (as opposed to night)
b. day (24 hour period)
1. as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1
2. as a division of time 1b
c. a working day, a day's journey
d. days, lifetime (pl.)
e. time, period (general)
g. temporal references
So some meanings of the hebrew word day were 'a division of time' (surely the meaning in Genesis 1), or a year. And they had other words translated day, which I have not looked up. A book in which I looked up the meaning of the Hebrew word translated 'die' said that it could mean 'to be sentenced to death', which is what happened to Adam even on the literal day on which he ate the fruit.
As for the fundamentalists, I can only assume that none of them have a Hebrew reference book! I myself see no reason, given the evidence above, to believe that the earth was created in 144 hours.
Why not indeed, but then why? If you think about it, we are often not literal. One example is exaggeration. Indeed when I said think about it, that probably wasn't literal, as you must have already thought about what you say. So what I actually mean by 'think about it' is 'think about it more deeply'. So theres nothing unusual about not meaning things literally. People just seem more cynical about it when it's in the Bible.
The idea that if Adam had not sinned, he would not have died, crops up many times in the Bible. Romans 5:12 states that "through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned." So death came about because of the sin. Before the sin, Adam did not have to die.
Back in those times, people cared about where they were buried. They liked to be buried with their ancestors. I don't know why, but it meant something to him, or he wouldn't have asked for it to be done (Genesis 49:29)
I can't find this one in a book, but again, in the original Hebrew, maybe he did.
Just in case you misunderstood, I'm not thinking that this is something entrusted to me personally or that God has spoken to me personally to give me a mission. It's just from the Bible again, though I can't remember where it is to quote it exactly. The closest I can remember is, 'In case a man sins ... he will die for his sins. But if you see him sin and you do not warn him, I will ask back his blood from your hand.'
The college bell has just gone, so finally,
Can you be more specific about this? I can't think of any proven examples of these things.
Jordan Posted Apr 30, 2002
You know, Hoovooloo, you really do make an excellent rhetorician - I'm almost certain that your consistant use of well-known oratorical tricks is entirely unconscious. For example: -
You repeat the same concept many times. You make statements concerning the lack of literal meaning in the bible six times, some of which are almost paraphrases of each other.
You implicitly make vast generalisations. I cite this example: you state that Fundamentalists take the Bible literally. You then leave the statement open to misinterpretation by those who do not read far enough into the statement by neglecting to put it in context: Christian Fundamentalists do not represent the majority of Christians, they are merely a subset .
Referring to the above example (and leading on from it), you also endevour to associate religion with the ludicrous through juxtaposition of an absurd fact (the world was created in 4004(?) B.C.) with that made by David. Of course, such a thing is not a logical entailment of your (valid ) question, but it will be read as such by casual readers - who will then accept the results of such evidently faulty reasoning (Fundamentalists are Christians, Fundamentalists believe X and X is absurd, therefore Christianity is absurd) as being true. This idea is continued through recurring reference to literal meanings in the Bible (or the absence thereof).
Your sense of humour also lends itself to the lazy or superficial eye, though (as you have already said) its purpose is for your own enjoyment.
You use an alternative definition of the word 'test' from that which was intended. I conceed that this may have initially been the result of an honest error, but you reaffirm it thus:
"...However, if it's OK to test God's powers, how do you or any other believer explain his repeated failure to pass tests? The repeated failure of prophecies to come true? The repeated failure of the Biblical view of reality to conform to actual reality as we experience it?"
The entirety of this could just as easily have been due to misinterpretation /in extremis/ of the meaning of the word 'test' as it could have been to an Arcadian enquiry, unrelated to such misapplied logic.
And, most importantly, you detect such errors in reasoning when used by others, and carefully point them out . For example, to avoid erratic reasoning that result from tactics such as that last sort, you make sure that you question how others define their terms, especially when borrowed from your own usage - you cleverly spotted David's generalisation of the term 'religion' and confronted him with it.
Probably, your use of such dishonest tricks is not actually due to an innate desire to mislead, but rather a result of their assimilation. Most intelligent people learn, unthinkingly, to make good use of this when debating or arguing (epecially in the latter), and those who do not are often at a disadvantage unless they are quick enough to point them out - it is very hard to undermine a direct question resulting from a comprehensively bad use of logic once the opposition has already obtained the support of the audience - they will insist that you answer, and failure to do so will appear submissive. In my opinion, this is a situation that arises from factors such as (a) the adveserial nature of social interaction (in which popularity can mean more than actually being right) and (b) a globally poor understanding of logic (including mental laziness, a prime example of the 'shop-window mentality' ). Thus, it is only natural that intelligent individuals should resort, albeit unawares, to using such techniques to influence others positively.
Some of this is off topic, but I can't stand imagining people reading through this thread and not thinking deeply enough about the subjects that it touches.
By reading your article, I get the impression that you are not an impartial writer, though you may be trying to give that impression. (Note the use of the word 'may'.) The initial statements that you make concerning religion are emotionally charged and opinionated. As is evident, your definition of faith is not universally accepted. Assuming that you want this to be a scientific (or impartial) statement concerning faith, you should either find a universally agreed definition or give a number of variations (I have reason to believe the former is possible). Also, your statement concerning 'double-thinking' (besides being Orwellian) is not a definite truth - why should the faithful refuse to question their beliefs?
Notice that at no point did you say that these were your own beliefs. You make definite statements, using the words 'is' and 'must' to great effect - they are unmodified and unquantified. This implies that you are interested in stating facts; if you are not and yet you still want to speak in this way, you ought to have a disclaimer to this effect at the beginning. Recall your accusation of David - that he was 'setting himself up as an expert'. Aren't you doing the same thing?
Please be careful not to capitalise on the laziness of others - even if you don't mean to.
Hoovooloo Posted Apr 30, 2002
Thanks... I think.
Going bit by bit...
"you state that Fundamentalists take the Bible literally"..."neglecting to put it in context: Christian Fundamentalists do not represent the majority of Christians"
I think some of your misunderstanding here comes about because you're reading this entry in isolation, when it's actually meant to be read as on element of a larger project, which discusses Evolution and Creationism. In another of those entries I do make it very clear that Creationists (and by implication Fundamentalists) are a very small, albeit vocal, minority among Christians. In yet another entry I quote in its entirety the recent letter to Tony Blair criticising Creationist teaching, which was signed by many Bishops.
As for implying Christianity is absurd, that it NOT my intention at all, and anyone making such an assumption from the statements I've made here or from any of my entries would, as you say, be guilty of very faulty logic indeed.
Defintion of the word "test" - I *thought* the Bible contained an explicit exhortation NOT to test God. David explained my error, in that I misinterpreted the meaning, in that verse of the word "test" - it actually meant something more like "annoy", rather than "subject to a trial of some kind". So, I'm left with the fact that the Bible does NOT warn against testing God, as I thought it did. So I ask the question... why not test him then?
Dishonest tricks?! Reasonable points, I'd have said, publicly made. Anyone "tricked" by them, deserves to be. I don't expect a reader of average intelligence to be blinded by rhetoric on either side.
"I can't stand imagining people reading through this thread and not thinking deeply enough about the subjects that it touches." - 100% agreement from me there. I've written most of this stuff to try to make people THINK. I still, personally, see David's reactions as knee-jerk defence of an entrenched position, rather than thinking, but that may be my problem. Like I say, if the effect of his religion on him is that he's nicer to people, I'm all in favour of it.
"By reading your article, I get the impression that you are not an impartial writer, though you may be trying to give that impression."
Actually, I'm not trying to give the impression of being impartial. I'm TRYING to be impartial - but I KNOW I'm not, and freely admit I'm not. Once again, you need to see this entry in the context of the larger project. I initiated the project after some... entertaining discussions of Creationism in Peer Review. "Josh the Genius" had written a spirited entry explaining the Creationist position, but the generally pro-science demographic here was NEVER going to let it through Peer Review. Personally I thought that Creationism deserved a place in the Edited Guide, and a project seemed the way to go. I knew I could write some of it, and I equally knew that I could NOT write all of it, because I freely admit that I'm anti-Creationist. I therefore recruited Josh to write those parts of the project that I could not. I tried to achieve balance. As I say, if you consider the project as a whole I don't think you'll be under any illusions about my position. BUT that doesn't mean I can't see what Josh is getting at, respect his right to believe it if he wants to, and do what I can to get a couple of the entries he wrote into the Edited Guide by a sort of "back door", by providing some balance in the form of real science written by Ste, and commentary written by myself.
If you can come up with a definition of faith that is universally accepted, well done. It has been pointed out to me that this entry, in particular, assumes that everyone follows a theistic religion. About a billion Buddhists might have something to say about that. I'm not pretending this is in any way scientific. It's an observation of the way the world appears to be.
Double thinking - what's wrong with an Orwellian reference? It's a commonly understood term which is directly applicable in these circumstances. If you know of a more widely understood and or applicable phrase meaning "the ability to hold in one's mind and reconcile two contradictory concepts", tell me and I'll use that instead.
I'm not setting myself up as an expert - far from it. I asked Josh to write the Entries on Creationism and on the Biblical story of Creation, because he knows more about that than I. I asked Ste to write the entries on evolution, because he knows more about that than I. agcBen wrote the entry on the Creationism paradigm and the need for it, because she had a take on it which was qualitatively better than mine (and because I asked her to! Ben!). I've cobbled together some comment pieces to fill out the structure and tie the things together.
It's perfectly understandable that if you read this entry in isolation I come across as an anti-religious rhetorician. But this ISN'T supposed to be read in isolation. I'm not sure where the project is at at the moment, (subbing? Editing?...) but when it eventually makes the front page, this entry will only be one on a list including quite opposing points of view. I did strive for balance in the project as a whole. This necessarily meant that individual entries are less than balanced in themselves. The only other solution would have been to write one long entry which covered everything, and that would have ended up rambling on even longer than this answer!
Jordan Posted May 1, 2002
Hmm... reading through what I said, it all sounds a bit nasty and overcritical... The point I was trying so hard (and at such great length) to make was not that you are a bad or dishonest communicator, but rather that you (inadvertantly, as can be seen from your reply) made use of a lot of rhetorical devices of the sort that could easily sway a lazy mind. (I ought to point out that most of us have 'lazy minds', and advertisers or script-writers make great use of this.) I simply wanted to point out a few because so many intelligent people pick them up without realising it - and so many people fail to spot that they are being swayed by such inconsequencial factors as wording.
You are right in saying that I had not fully understood the nature of the project - and what an ambitious and commendable effort it is! Great idea, and a great work.
However, it still stands that the entry on the 'tensions between Science and Religion' (note caps) seems a bit too negative. When I referred to your 'Orwellian reference', I was not disputing the legitamacy of quoting Wells, but its appropriateness - I was speaking about /connotations/. The connotations of any written work are almost as important as the work itself - often more, depending on the emotional involvement that the author has with the topic. You see, most people will unconsciously pick up on negative connotations and, without meaning to, apply them to the material. Few people approach all that they hear and say from a purely logical point of view and unswayed by such subtle nuances. Those who do (for example, many people on the autistic spectrum, including me) are often unable to function in society. To ignore the unconscious laws that society imposes on itself would be to make one's self an oucast. Therefore, when negative implications are used to directly refer to a concept, the negativity is generalised. Orwellian references carry Orwell's connotations, and people will pick up on this.
Wow, what a rant ! Deep breaths... OK, I'm better... now, where was I? A definition of faith... Well, a pure and unadulterated definition can seldom be found - most people have fairly strong views. So here goes:
Many people refer to 'unthinking' or 'unquestioning' faith. This is OK. Many people refer to faith on its own. This is also OK. But to refer to unquestioning faith as simply 'faith' is both deceptive and wrong - not OK! Logically: Faith is not the same as unquestioning faith, so faith is not necessarily unquestioning. Neither is it necessarily questioning. This is the first important point to make.
Second: to have faith, there must be a concept to have faith in - just as to be in love, there must be something to be in love with, or have hope, there must be something to have hope in. Let's face it, someone might argue (out of pure spite) that one can hope but not for any particular thing, but even then there is a concept involved - it is merely unknown or undefined. It is a fundamental quality of the word faith that there is an object (concept) to which it is directed.
Next, look at the word 'faith'. What type of word is it? It is an *abstract noun* - and this is important, because only abstract nouns can have an opposite. (For anyone who doesn't know what an abstract noun is: it's basically the name of a concept, act or condition; such things do not exist as physical realities - the name of something that does exist is a concrete noun.) So there is an opposite to faith, and that is doubt. Can there be an alternative to doubt? Of course - one can choose not to do either. This is also a quality of many abstract nouns and their opposites, especially if they denote activity (discounting activity itself).
Bearing these qualities in mind, I shall now attempt to give a universal definition of faith: Faith is a belief in a concept, where belief is an acceptance of a concept as being true. That's it. A logical, operational definition of faith. I can think of no instances in which it is false. There are a number of important things to note about this definition: -
1. It is not necessarily unquestioning or unshakable, though it could be modified by placing one of these words (or words to this effect) in front of it (or a similar transformation of this). Just because something is accepted does not mean that it cannot be questioned or fall out of acceptance.
2. It has its opposite: incredulity about a concept, a refusal to accept it. Also, one can choose not to even think about it, so one could be neither faithful nor incredulous. Notice that incredulity is, by definition, the opposite of faith - this is the attitude that a scientist would take.
3. When referring to religion, one simply replaces the word 'concept' with 'doctrine' (or 'religious doctrine', for the pedantic).
Incidentally, I have also demonstrated the inappropriateness of your last paragraph, since the faithful may, if so desired, question the beliefs that they have accepted - just because I believe that all smarties are green does not mean that I cannot investigate to find evidence to support my view. Thus, no double thinking is involved - it all disappears in a puff of logic! YAY!!!
Notice that many so-called 'scientists' operate on faith - those who attacked your friend were doing so not because of lack of /evidence/, but because it opposed their own views on the universe. 'Pro-science' my !
Hmm... hope you like the definition ... Maybe you'll change the article now? Pretty pretty please?
Hoovooloo Posted May 1, 2002
Right - I'm going to respond to very few of the points you've made, for reasons which will become apparent...
"Notice that many so-called 'scientists' operate on faith"
I think that may be true to an extent. As a working scientist one must have some degree of trust/faith in ones colleagues, otherwise there'd be a need to confirm EVERY single result reported in the literature yourself and nothing would ever get done because any scientist who took the "doubt" approach to it's logical and absurd conclusion would have died of old age before finishing their first degree course.
On the other hand, science in general demonstrably DOESN'T operate on faith, but on evidence. If it were otherwise then Fleischmann and Pons would have won the Nobel Prize in 1990. What actually happened was that everyone in the world with access to a palladium electrode went "WHAT?" and rushed to the lab, in some cases in the middle of the night as soon as they heard, to check it out for themselves. And we all know how that turned out. Crude oil isn't tuppence a tonne, my car doesn't run on cold fusion, and we still have an environmental and energy problem.
" - those who attacked your friend"
Actually, Josh was no friend of mine, I was one of those attacking him in fact. But his position was honestly held and articulately put. He wanted Creationism to have a place in the guide, and for completely different reasons so did I. I find the concept that people believe this stuff in the teeth of the evidence fascinating. Which brings me onto...
" were doing so not because of lack of /evidence/, but because it opposed their own views on the universe."
Actually, if you check the threads, (and I'll provide a link if I can find it...) you'll find that in almost every single case the people opposing Josh's entry were doing so because the Guide Writing Guidelines demand factual entries, and Josh's explanation of the "science" of Creationism was factually incorrect in almost every detail. Several times the point was made that if he had any actual facts we'd all be interested to hear them, but all he presented were easily pointed out mistakes.
For example, his opening paragraph promised "evidence for Creation", and he presented NOTHING of the kind. What he did present was what he referred to as "evidence against evolution". He couldn't see the gap in the logic there - that evidence against evolution is NOT evidence for anything at all, much less Creation in particular. Not that he presented any actual evidence against evolution. He used the usual Creationist arguments, including "what use is half an eye?", the Nebraska man mistake, and others.
The funny thing is, when it came to putting the project together, I actually had some material which DOES contradict the commonly accepted view of human evolution (see the entry on the Aquatic Ape). It's not evidence for Creationism - it's still an evolutionary hypothesis - but it IS something mainstream science seems to be sticking it's fingers in its ears and going "lalalala" about. Which is interesting.
Anyway - you signed off by saying "Maybe you'll change the article now?" - well the fact is, I can't. It's now in the hands of the sub-editor, I don't have an "edit" button for it any more, and in any case, I don't think I'd be inclined to do so anyway. What I AM inclined to do, in the light of your excellent posting, is to ask you to knock what you've written above into shape as a Guide Entry "answering" mine, (i.e. put it in third person, structure it into sections with a beginning, middle and end, and if possible put headers and stuff in with GuideML ) and call it something like "Science and Religion - No Need for Tension?" and I'll try to get the sub-ed to include it in the project. I stand by my opinion as expressed in this entry, but I would like to see yours expressed too. How about it?
Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking Posted May 2, 2002
can't resist to jump in.
I just keep it to one point, the thread is too long to go into everything.
Jordan, you say:
< I shall now attempt to give a universal definition of faith: Faith is a belief in a concept, where belief is an acceptance of a concept as being true. >
To me you just say: faith is the acceptance of a concept being true.
So what is the difference between faith and belief?
This gives "Faith is the acceptance of a doctrine being true". I never would call concept and doctrine being the same thing, and I doubt this could be regarded as "universally accepted".
To me all of you are talking at straight angles, and you only will agree to disagree.
Let me try to explain how I see the difference between your ways.
The science way is to explain the "How" of the universe. Even if in normal life a lot of theories are accepted as explaining "why" things work, when you go deeper you always come to How nature seems to work.
The religious way is to start with the "Why" at the deepest point, and use that as the basis to explain the dayly how.
Well, not exacly what I had in my mind, but it will have to do.
Jordan Posted May 2, 2002
Your first point is a good one - technically, faith and belief are interchangable using my definition (except for superficial changes in grammar). The only significant semantic difference between the two is in context and connotation - 'I believe in God' and 'I have faith in God' would be interpreted slightly differently. I suppose that my definition could be supplemented thus: - Faith is a strong belief in a concept. But here's a question - is faith a strong subset of belief, or is belief a weak subset of faith? My definition takes it to be the former - notice that I am defining faith in terms of belief, and not vice-versa. That is why I worded my definition so.
However, your second assertion is not entirely justified - why is not doctrine a concept? It /must/ be - try applying your earlier reasoning to this. Doctrine is a type of concept. Think about it.
Hmm... the thought of writing a Guide article about it sounds a bit intimidating. But, nevertheless, I would like to try. Sounds like an interesting project to work on while I pretend to revise!
Hoovooloo Posted May 2, 2002
Writing a guide entry doesn't need to be intimidating! Quite apart from anything else, your previous posting is pretty close to explaining your point... slap on an intro, conclusion, couple of headers and your 90% there, I'd say. Go on, have a go!
Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking Posted May 2, 2002
Difficult to explain such things in a foreigh language.
In my view, a concept is a view, a set of ideas, not complete or definite.
A doctrine is a finished set of rules, to be followed without much thinking.
The pope and the communists have/had doctrines.
Marx' view of an ideal state can be seen as a concept.
Jordan Posted May 8, 2002
But why can't a doctrine be a concept? A doctrine is, 7
Just a sec7o
nd... the barcode scanner is still at it... Every so often, it bleeps and a '7' appears, followed in quick succession by a carriage return. I'm ignoring it now so that you can see how annoying it is! A doctrine is a concept - just as a law of Physics is a concept. A concept can seem as definate as you want, and you can have as much faith as you want in it. QED!
Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking Posted May 8, 2002
Sorry Jordan, I cannot follow you.
I looked for some definitions, and I cannot see a doctrine as being a form of concept.
Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems
a word or phrase used in propositions purporting to describe real world relationships. Concepts are neither true nor false, only more or less useful. (Umpleby )
The cognitive meaning of a term and the smallest unit of (conscious) thought processes. Concepts are neither true nor false but more or less applicable (a) to recognize an object as an instance of the concept, (see recognition ) (b) to produce or to understand sentences in which the concept is expressed and (c) to develop constructs or cognitive system s using the concept in question. Regarding (a) concepts provide decision rules for determining class membership rather than extensional membership lists. E.g., the concept "TV commercial" specifies certain defining features which when present identify a sequence of TV images as an instant of the concept without prior knowledge of its class membership (see connotation ). (Krippendorff )
ismail's Quick Reference v.1
Archaic: a teaching, instruction; something that is taught; a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief: dogma.
Official Christianity Glossary for Introduction to Religion
An official statement of theological belief.
If I read this correctly, a concept is open and leaves you to believe in it or not, without saying whether it is true.
A doctrine is shoved onto you without possibiliy to question its value.
Try to discuss with a jesuit priest the CONCEPT of the Pope's infallibility or Mary's virginity. He'll tell you it is a dogma that cannot be discussed.
I think it is significant that you speak of a concept when it is about a belief in general, and a doctrine when you switch to religion.
Jordan Posted Jul 5, 2002
I really ought to have replied to this earlier. However, every time I came to a conclusion, I changed my mind, and I made two starts at it but kept being held back by the most unlikely nemesis - the num-lock key. On an iMac keyboard, you have this tiny little key right next to the 'delete' key (about a centimetre from it) that turns on the number pad. Alternatively, when you are typing an e-mail, it erases what you spent the last ten minutes (or more) typing up. I hate it with all my heart. When I rule the world, num-lock will be the first to go. All the num-lock keys will be removed and burnt on a big bonfire of plastic. Possession of a num-lock key will be a capital offence etc.
So, now that I've learned to avoid it through an excellent example of operant conditioning, I can now stop boring you with the idiosyncracies of the Library computer and write a reply.
Your definitions were taken from specialised dictionaries that were probably not intended for generalisation, just as the language in a court room would be out of place on a biology field trip.
I recall hearing 'doctrine' defined as, and I quote verbatim, 'the set of concepts held by a religious or political group'. This may or may not be accurate. I have since been unable to find this on the internet, but I have found the following interesting article:
'In order to cope with the increasing secularization of Western culture, these five principles became non-negotiable truths of the Fundamentalism movement. These principles became the "intellectual framework within which one explains the meaning of life." According to Keith Roberts, "the set of concepts [here, the five principles of Fundamentalism] is placed beyond question and is made absolute by the sacred mood in which it is transmitted."* Note that Roberts says that these fundamental principles are "placed beyond question." The unwillingness of the group to allow its fundamental truths to be brought to the table for discussion created a sense of "iron-clad" certainty for its members. '
* Roberts, /Religion in Sociological Perspective/, 102
- Citied by Robert W. Smith, /Wesleyan Identity and the Impact of the Radical Right/, 15/03/96
It would appear that my definition is already being used.
However, your original point is still valid - the definition is not *universal* - i.e. it is not adopted by everyone. I therefore alter my proposal thus: that this definition is an analytic description of faith. Thus, if individuals choose to jargonise it (e.g., as the legal profession does) in another fashion, they can do so, just so long as they don't mind defining their terms first.
Is that better?
Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking Posted Jul 5, 2002
Long time ago, so I lost most of what we were talking about and had to reread most of it.
We just go on thinking along different lines.
You come with a lot of fundamentalistic statements, that have to be accepted witout questions and call that faith.
For me that is doctrine.
Faith and belief are things that you and only you decide about whether to accept them.
Jordan Posted Jul 11, 2002
So what you are saying is that doctrine is a set of rules that someone/thing tells us to believe, and that faith is something we choose to believe ourselves. Is this right? Because, if that's the case, then what do you say a convert thinks - is he following doctrine, or having faith? (If I'm wrong with my initial premise, then my conclusion is invalidated - please point this out if so!)
I would say that everyone has a choice about what to believe - whether they believe what they are told to believe or not. They can also choose whether or not to question what they believe. Thus, even if we say that doctrine is what the religious are taught to believe without question, there is little to distinguish it from non-religious faith. The difference is simply the choice of what to believe and how deeply to question it. I am working from the premise that free will cannot be removed from the agent, even though it can be shaped.
I'm not sure what to make of this...
Oh, I might not be able to post much - I haven't really got access to a computer over the holidays!
Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking Posted Jul 11, 2002
I almost cannot beleive it, but somehow it looks like we are in agreement.
As far as I remember my own thoughts of some time ago (I did not re-read all of the backlog) your premise is correct. And a convert would do both. His acceptance of the offered doctrine is changed into believe/faith, but by his own free will.
By the way, a doctrine never comes alone, it is always connected to a group of people bound by the acceptance of the doctrine. This group normally is called a church (not in the sense of a building).
Another possibility is a political doctrine, like communism, even democracy (or the <./>terms</.> of the BBC
Everyone has a free will to choose the set they feel closest to and tell the world they belong to that group.
They are only not free to try to force me to accept the same doctrine, when I prefer something else.
It depends on the doctrines themselves how much leeway they will leave the people for independent thinking.
Let's not kid ourselves. We are human, and to belong somewhere we will pretend outwardly to accept more stringent rules than we inwardly believe in.
I have faith you will find a way to a computer and h2g2 someday
Jordan Posted Jul 27, 2002
Your faith is well placed, for I return!
I think we've just agreed... Oh, the joy! YAY!!! I've not got much time, though, so I'll have to wait until later to reply more fully. Maybe some day I will resolve my amazing fines at the local Library and I can get on the Internet every day!
Key: Complain about this post
- 1: Insight (Apr 29, 2002)
- 2: Hoovooloo (Apr 29, 2002)
- 3: Insight (Apr 30, 2002)
- 4: Hoovooloo (Apr 30, 2002)
- 5: Insight (Apr 30, 2002)
- 6: Jordan (Apr 30, 2002)
- 7: Hoovooloo (Apr 30, 2002)
- 8: Jordan (May 1, 2002)
- 9: Hoovooloo (May 1, 2002)
- 10: Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking (May 2, 2002)
- 11: Jordan (May 2, 2002)
- 12: Hoovooloo (May 2, 2002)
- 13: Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking (May 2, 2002)
- 14: Jordan (May 8, 2002)
- 15: Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking (May 8, 2002)
- 16: Jordan (Jul 5, 2002)
- 17: Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking (Jul 5, 2002)
- 18: Jordan (Jul 11, 2002)
- 19: Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking (Jul 11, 2002)
- 20: Jordan (Jul 27, 2002)
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