Monday, June 04, 2007

Skeptics and Believers

There are certain blogs out there which always contrast religious believers with what they call 'skeptics'. Inevitably, skeptics are equated with atheists, and furthermore proponents of 'Science' and 'Reason' as the opposite of religion.

Why someone cannot be skeptical of certain claims of religion without necessarily being in one of the camps is beyond me. When analyzing a 'concept' such as a particular religion, (and it is important to look at particular religions because they cannot be lumped together), why does one need to provide a better alternative? One should be able to analyze it on it's own merit. That's like having a mathematical proof be overturned because the man who proved it turned out to be gay.

Next, about Science - the scientific method, with hypotheses and tests and controls and statistics, had only been practiced for at most a couple of hundred years. Prior to this time, there were what I would call pre-scientific discoveries in the areas of chemistry, physics, biology, upon which modern science rests. Furthermore, the symbiotic relationship between science and mathematics, as well as these disciplines and computational devices has only been established in the last fifty years. Already the rate of progress is astonishing. I am not predicting anything sensational, but if I were to compare religious thought and scientific thought, (as appley and orangey as they are) I would say that let the scientists have their 2000 years and let's see what they discover.

Finally, about Reason. Reason is abstract. It is a formalization of thought. Furthermore it is a refinement of thought. And lastly it is a gradient, not a scalar. What I mean by this, is that reasoning is not unique to humans. To some extent, many higher mammals reason - i.e. they are conscious of the world around them, of themselves, and they use facts about the world to be able to predict behaviors, and to use this to their benefit. In this way they are creating a mental model of reality. Man, due to whatever circumstances has been able to advance this to another level, due to perhaps language, perhaps genetic variation in the size of the cerebrum - really not important what specifically.

What is important to realize is that it is OK to not always be bound by Reason. Man, in general behaves reasonably, but He is not Mr. Spock or a computer. And that is OK. However, showing a counterexample where a person does something that doesn't follow Reason doesn't disprove the utility of Reason. It is not an all-or-nothing proposition!

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All reason involves faith and all faith involves reason. However, at the end of the day, either you are committed to a rational objective analysis of all available evidence or you are not. On which side of the divide are you?

June 05, 2007 5:52 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

You didn't address any of the points in the post, 'Anonymous'.

"However, at the end of the day, either you are committed to a rational objective analysis of all available evidence or you are not."

I don't even know what the heck you are alluding to. Evidence of what? A Deity, the Flood, the Exodus, Rashbi's first draft of the Zohar?

June 05, 2007 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

I think Anonymous was asking if you're rational. Good post. I just have to see how much of it I understand.

June 20, 2007 4:40 PM  

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