Science as ideology

A couple of good discussion pieces by Chris Mulherin that were published recently:

Christianity, science and rumours of divorce talks about the misunderstandings that lead to the perceived “conflict” between science and the Christian faith. In particular, he emphasises the distinction that Christianity is a worldview, whereas science is a methodology.

The second article, Science as ideology betrays its purpose, discusses the hazards which arise from conflating the methodology of science with the worldview of Naturalism.

Both articles can be downloaded from the ISCAST website.

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Related posts:

Grainge Clarke on the assumptions of science

Where God meets physics

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15 thoughts on “Science as ideology

  1. The incompatibility between conflicting claims about reality from scientific and theological inquiry is not based on some ‘misunderstanding’ but arises from conflicting epistemological approaches plainly revealed by practice and demonstration.

    Claims about reality should be measured and arbitrated by reality for validity… if our inquiry wishes to know anything about reality itself. Religious claims avoid this arbitration and turn to revelation, faith, and scripture. That deliberate turning away from reality’s arbitration of claims made about it – and not some supposed ‘misunderstanding’ of proper magesteria – is why the two do not share an equivalent but conflicting epistemology, which is why they are incompatible methods to find out how reality operates.

    All the buzz words used by apologists, accommodationists, and faitheists to try to make the incompatible compatible do not compensate for the utter lack of knowledge about how reality operates produced by religious epistemology; instead, we have an established history of which approach – science or religious belief – works. Against this lopsided evidence, we know that claims of compatibility are empty of knowledge value describing how reality operates. So when religious and scientific claims about reality differ – as they clearly do in subjects like biology and cosmology and geology and history – we know religious belief is not, has not, and can reasonably be expected to never be, a method of inquiry that produces knowledge about how reality operates. This unpleasant reality is why the religious try so hard to find ways around the paucity of knowledge produced by the acceptable method of religious inquiry by introducing Look over there! terms to divert our attention. This is where we come across philosophical and metaphysical arguments about the shortcomings of the science painted to be something other than what it is in practice… made up stiff like a philosophical reliance on naturalism and metaphysical stances like scientism. These kinds of descriptions serve only the religious master and do not accurately reflect science in action by those who want to figure out how reality operates. It’s all a circus act by snake oil salesmen to divert us from looking behind the religious curtain and understanding why religious claims about reality never produce equivalent knowledge to science.

    As to claims that religious beliefs rather than scientific inquiries answers the ‘why’ questions – an area that does not need any arbitration by reality to make a really nice Just So story – we know there is no way to determine if these are actually true. That’s why science doesn’t pretend to know anything about the purpose of god or the meaning of life or other equivalently silly questions. And they are silly because we can know nothing about the truth value of whatever ‘answer’ we apply to them. That’s why such questions find a natural home in religious belief.

    • tildeb :

      Claims about reality should be measured and arbitrated by reality for validity.

      This is nonsensical.

      “arbitrated by reality” is a meaningless statment. I suspect that what you mean is “arbitrated by scientific study”.

      In short, you are saying that questions which science is not equipped to answer are meaningless. Also, the validity of answers must be determined scientifically. By such analysis, the answers provided by science are always the most scientific. Therefore, science is the best way to answer all meaningful questions.

      Seems a little bit question-begging to me.

      • Methinks you are too quick to pass judgement about what is and is not nonsensical. If I make a claim about reality (not just a ‘scientific’ or ‘religious’ claim but any claim at all), then all I am saying is that reality – and not my heart-felt belief about the kind of answer I want to get it – is the best place to find out if it is true and test for verification about the truth value of that claim. This is not ‘nonsensical’. We do it all the time in every area of life save one: religious faith. Yes, the best method we have for examining reality and extracting knowledge about it is the scientific method not because it’s science but because it really does seem to do a bang-up job to reliably and consistently produce answers and explanations that work for everyone everywhere all the time. This is no small achievement.

        Remember, Sentinel, that it is this point that needs to be raised again and again when we’re assured by accommodationists, apologists, and faitheists that there is no problem when we’re talking about competing claims about reality and the supposed equivalent ‘knowledge’ derived from a scientific approach and a faith-based belief revelation that are in direct conflict. Waving one’s hands about compatibility of knowledge products from each when confronted by this very real conflict in real life (just think of evolution versus creationism, for example) solves nothing, arbitrates nothing. The conflict remains because the <answers are in conflict, the explanations are in conflict. In other words, both cannot be true.

        Pretending that this very real conflict doesn’t exist or doesn’t need to exist or exists because people foolishly give preference to the answers and explanations from science is hardly the way to resolve which competing claim is correct, which one reflects how things really are, which one produces knowledge that works. And in every case, the method that works to describe reality and produce practical knowledge about it is not from religious faith. (On every knowledge front, it is always religion that retreats in the face of reality giving up her secrets.) After all, if the supposedly ‘compatible’ method were true in fact, we would not have competing truth claims between religions. But we do, with no way to determine from reality through equivalent revelation, faith, and scripture which if any is actually the correct one. But rather than face this inherent inadequacy of religious ‘answers’ and ‘explanations’ to be tested by reality head on, the religious accommodationist, apologist, and faitheist try to divert our attention away from this everlasting shortcoming by trying to blame science of intolerance and/or bias. This is where we find the exercise of nonsense.

      • No, the point still stands, I’m afraid.

        Reality doesn’t arbitrate. People arbitrate. People arbitrate from with their worldview. Even science is done by people. This is inescapable.

      • If what you say is true, then we wouldn’t have the technologies, applications, and therapies that work for everyone everywhere all the time because their effect would be subject to the people using them. We would have equivalent sciences as we do religions, such as Irish chemistry different from Indian chemistry, Buddhist physics different from Jewish physics. But we don’t. We have chemistry and physics arbitrated by reality regardless of the person using this knowledge. Your wishes to the contrary do not change this fact.

      • Not quite.

        What we have is chemistry and physics arbitrated by people operating within an agreed-upon philosophical framework and within an agreed-upon set of assumptions, regardless of the person doing the science.

      • Sentinel, your cell phone doesn’t work because you make certain philosophical assumptions within a worldview framework. You and your beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with how reality operates, how your cell phone actually works.

        You fool yourself with words to think otherwise, and this is what religious belief depends on – our willingness to fool ourselves in the service of specific beliefs – to force itself into our considerations… not by merit of accuracy and usefulness and knowledge of reality common to all but by creating contrary and conflicting claims it must have to be considered true in order to have anything worthwhile to say about anything. The problem here for the religious is putting the cart before the horse, requiring reality to be a certain way to suit the model of a particular religious belief and then condemning any and all who dares to suggest that this order is incompatible to finding out from reality if the religious model works to produce equivalent knowledge to the scientific method.

        No matter how you try to spin it, religious belief has not, does not, and never shall produce equivalent knowledge. The claims religions make are done not to discover how reality operates and then produce technologies, applications, and therapies that serve everyone equally well but to serve their models of how reality must be. We have a rich history to demonstrate how and why this method doesn’t work to answer or explain anything accurately about the reality we share or produce knowledge about it. In very stark contrast, science does.

        So when we face incompatible claims between a religious belief and a scientific explanation, remember your cell phone; it doesn’t care about your worldview. It either works or it does not. That is reality, and we should let it decide what is true about it.

      • tildeb :

        You and your beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with how reality operates

        I agree entirely. The same is true of you, I’m sure.

        Your descriptions simply don’t square with anything in my experience. I have no idea what you mean when you refer to “religion”, but you certainly don’t seem to be talking about Christianity or anything else that I’m familiar with, so I can’t really respond.

      • Come on, Sentinel, I gave a very specific example of conflicting claims about reality when I mentioned the incompatible claims between evolution and creationism. Don’t pretend you have no idea of the multitude of conflicting claims between the scripture we call the bible and the reality we share. Never heard of Galileo, eh? Never heard of Bruno. Never heard of Genesis. Never imagined the sixty some odd references to a geocentric model of the universe mentioned in the bible might be taken by some to be a factual claim about reality. Never heard of the dozens of references to a flat earth, claims that prayer can be be efficacious, that faith can overcome disease, that reality can be altered by such faith and turn water into wine, never heard of defying the density of water, and reverse the damage from cullular death. Nope. All of these are completely new to you, you say?

        Yes, I must be imagining that for every citizen in the US that understands why evolution is true, there are five who insist it’s not.

        Come on.The biggest claim for your religious belief by far is the assertion of original sin inherited by all of us from an historical founding couple (Adam and Eve) to justify the blood sacrifice of an historical Jesus. The problem here is that genetics reveals this historical claim of ancestry to be factually wrong. Other historical claims from the stories that compromise the book of Genesis are also factually wrong – like the flood.

        Not familiar with any of these claims including the one that describes a the central tenet of christianity?

        Sentinel, I don’t believe you for a second.

      • tildeb :

        I gave a very specific example of conflicting claims about reality when I mentioned the incompatible claims between evolution and creationism.

        Creationism ≠ Christianity

        tildeb :

        The biggest claim for your religious belief by far is the assertion of original sin inherited by all of us from an historical founding couple (Adam and Eve) to justify the blood sacrifice of an historical Jesus.

        … [this] describes a the central tenet of christianity

        Incorrect. The sacrificial atonement of Jesus addresses the issue of individual sin. It is not directly linked to the concept of Original Sin.

        Here’s a quick rule of thumb: if it’s not in the Nicene Creed, it’s probably not “the central tenet of Christianity”.

        I’m sure you have issues with creationism. So do I.

        But why not take up those issues with creationists?

      • The sacrificial atonement of Jesus addresses the issue of individual sin. It is not directly linked to the concept of Original Sin.

        And sin entered the world how?

        Come on.

        It is my understanding that another central tenet of christianity (and enunciated in various Nicene creeds) is the role of god as the maker of all things. It is also my understanding that man was made in god’s image. Ergo, god made man. But evolution by natural selection shows us that we were not ‘made’ but clearly and demonstrably evolved from common ancestors with other great apes. Please note the important word to understanding evolution, natural selection. To suggest any intervention at any point by some exterior agency is what I mean by ‘creationism’ and that includes any notion of inserting a ‘soul’.

        I don’t see how you can possibly keep a straight face when you say you are unaware of these fundamental yet factually incorrect christian claims about the reality we share.

      • tildeb :
        natural selection shows us that we were not ‘made’
        …[these are] fundamental yet factually incorrect christian claims about the reality we share.

        “God made everything, including us.”

        As a statement of Christian belief, that is in no way inconsistent with evolution, cosmology, or any other aspect of science.

        If you, as (I presume) a non-Christian, choose to interpret the statement differently, and I can’t comment on whatever conclusions you choose to draw.

      • “God made everything, including us.”

        As a statement of Christian belief, that is in no way inconsistent with evolution, cosmology, or any other aspect of science.

        Unless the christian god is nothing more than a deistic idea of some distant universe starter – a universe that just so happened to produce life here on Earth – the notion of being ‘made’ by god is most certainly not just inconsistent but incompatible with a major tenet of modern biology that informs our current understanding of genetics and medicine… a current understanding that has produced therapies, applications, amnd technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. Claiming that god made us and that this claim is compatible with evolution doesn’t make it so. And that’s why I emphasized the key word to understanding evolution: natural selection, meaning not made by any purposeful, meaningful, directed agency but life forms expressed as an emergent compilation of interactions with local environments. This is not a “conclusion I wish to draw” but an understanding of what evolution means in action. That you may choose to ignore this understanding of modern biology in order to maintain a different faith-based religious belief is up to you, but it stands contrary to and incompatible with what’s true in reality.

      • The word “natural”, in this instance, means “with no discernable guiding hand”.

        The ability of science to discern a guiding hand is limited to the natural world. A theistic guiding hand would be invisible to science, by its own presuppositions and limits. The phrase “natural selection” is an approriate scientific statement, but it makes no comment on supernatural influence. This is wholly appropriate for science.

      • Here’s the claim: God made everything, including us.

        How can we determine if this claim is true?

        I argue religious belief negates reality’s role to arbitrate it.

        The ability of science to discern a guiding hand is limited to the natural world. A theistic guiding hand would be invisible to science

        There you go: you disallow reality to arbitrate the claim and assume its truth value not by anything you can discern from reality but by virtue of simply applying it to reality as if it were true. Nothing in reality can influence your faith in the truth value of the claim. This is why faith-based claims do not reflect but presume to tell reality how it must be, and that is why faith-based beliefs produce zero knowledge. We can know your faith claim about god making everything is absolutely empty of knowledge and contains no means to find out any differently independent of the faith claim itself. So when the claim comes into conflict with knowledge produced by scientific inquiry, we can know that only one works… and it isn’t faith. Faith through belief is a surefire way to fool ourselves into believing claims that have no independent support from reality.

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