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Do you love science?
No 50%
Yes 50%

Votes: 10

 Why Science Got Me and God Didn't

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Nov 08, 2001
An essay including both the terms "love" and "ATP synthetase."

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It's important to talk about what science is, and what it is not. Science has been given a cold, arrogant persona as an institution, which really isn't fair. There are cold, arrogant scientists, but I'd wager that there are people of that sort in any profession. It can be said that science is made up of the thoughts and actions of every scientist, but if that's so it seems even more silly to think of science as inhuman and cold; it can almost be described in a mathematical proof: human does not equal inhuman.

Firstly, science is a lot more modest than people tend to think. Science doesn't say "I KNOW ALL AND SEE ALL." That's preposterous - no one does. But, even if science doesn't have omniscience, at least it has ideas. Science doesn't even claim that its ideas are right - it tells us whether or not they appear to work.

And really, it's pretty important to know that things will work, regardless of how "right" they are. After all, isn't effectiveness more easily agreed upon than righteousness? This ethereal-to-concrete property of science is what has brought us things like the wheel, pasteurized milk, and mass spectrometry. Things amongst which, by the way, are what built the "scientific institution" and gave it its influence. Science wouldn't have the power it does in our lives if it didn't make a difference. It is a collection of observations, and inferences made from those observations. It gets to a point where one has to choose their words carefully if they're going to try and talk about what science does. Otherwise, people end up with the misguided notion that scientific fact equals truth.

A normal, run-of-the-mill fact does actually equal objective truth. This "fact," however, does not have an adjective in front of it. A scientific fact is an established, or rather trusted, idea within the body of scientific knowledge. And scientific knowldege is different than the sort of knowledge that God or Alan Greenspan has. Scientific knowledge is just a long, long list of things that have been seen, written down, and seen again.

So, what science describes is not the Universe, but the Apparent Universe, upon which it can be agreed that there is a distinction between the two. On to why that's good enough for me.

This humility on the part of science I find to be refreshingly honest. The Bible pretends like there's no such thing as questions, or at least that the answers to any of them are obvious. Even more vexing is the answers the Bible tends to give to any question starting with "Why?" All too many answers end up with a source that says "It dishonors God," or "It dishonors what God gave you," which to me sounds like "Because that's how it is."

Another factor in my leanings is how I prioritize incoming data. That is to say, I don't prioritize it. Whether it be emotional, tactile, gustatory, etc., I take it all in with an equal amount of seriousness. I don't trust the fact that I'm crying to mean something any more than I do that I just heard a knock at the door does. This goes back to the notion that science doesn't tell me the truth. Science doesn't tell me any more about truth than emotions do. Counselors have often told me that emotions don't come as "true" or "untrue." It's the way they impact us that's important, and such is the case with science. The only difference is that science requires an event to be replicable, but science deals with the entire human race, not just what's going on in my head. Not everyone can be at the place where an event takes place, but I can always be where my thoughts are, and thus have little need for a Sunday matinee of the laughing fit I just had.

Finally, at the risk of sacrificing the weight of this piece, I choose the most obvious, though probably least convincing of all reasons I could use to express my true love for science: it's what moves me. Never have I not wanted to be a scientist. The best thing I know (now watch as I get lazy, using words like "know" and "true") is that the shape of the enzyme ATP synthetase is that of a turbine, and as a proton shoots through it because of an electrical imbalance, it turns the "blades" of the "turbine", producing mechanical energy which is used to add a phosphate group to ADP, and make the wondrous energy molecule, ATP. That tiny tidbit is something that makes me smile. What makes science even more compelling to me is the intuitive trust I feel for it goes along with something I can see before my eyes. Over and over again. When I saw auroras erupting in the sky last winter, it seemed too good to be true that the fantastic things in my textbooks were real and they had an explanation.

Chemistry is what fascinates me the most. Biochemistry, specifically. After all, isn't life the most exciting kind of chemistry? It's fast-paced, complicated, and important. The best part is that, for all of its seeming intangibility, its end result is a reality I deal with every day. Even most of the minute atomic processes are, or will be visible with the right tools and frame of mind.

I reach this point, and words tend to fail me, as is often the case when dealing with real love.


OK. (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by tkatchev on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 11:53:57 PM PST
Religion answers questions that science cannot, namely the reasons for existing in the first place. Really, science and religion study completely different things. (Unless you're talking about a pagan-cult-type of "religion", in which case you're a terminal case anyways, IMO.)

Peace and much love...

Yes, but they're *made up* answers. (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by elenchos on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:18:43 AM PST
The idea that your particular pet version of religious "truth" is somehow better than a "cult" is laughable. Your ideas about why we exist are no more valid than L. Ron Hubbard's, which is why it is impossible the tortured and confused mind of the religious person to choose between the "truth" of the Bible and the "truth" of Dianetics.

It's only question of which pretend story gets to the poor victim first.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Whatever. (3.00 / 2) (#6)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 04:43:22 AM PST
Actually, no. Dianetics is just some random beliefs made up by Hubbard; scientologists are told to believe in Xenu or whatever "just because", with a totalitarian dictate.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a rational, logical belief system. Really, to arrive at Christianity you only need to assume three things:
  1. There is an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe. (The "omnipotent" and "omniscient" part really logically follows from the "creator of the universe" part.)
  2. This creator loves his creatures. (Makes sense, otherwise why else would you bother creating in the first place?)
  3. Free will exists, as exhibited by the human race.

Everything else can be arrived at logically from those three axioms.

Peace and much love...

I will only ask this one more time (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 07:26:32 AM PST
Please demonstrate a passage from the Bible where humans are given "free will." And I'm not talking about some nebulous, latter-century piece of apologetics written by some monk with a severe drinking problem. I'm talking about the Bible itself. Christians claim that it is the word of God, so I want to see where God says that humans have free will. See, in pretty much any case that I can find, Yahweh says pretty much the exact opposite .. that humans are clay in its hands, and all that sort of thing. The writings of religious scholars of later centuries about "free will" are largely invented out of nowhere, and are a desparate attempt to explain away the Problem of Evil.

Oh, and you forgot one of the basic tenets of Xianity: worship Jesus or else. Of course, this means that 80% of the world's population is destined for eternal torture and hellfire because they're guilty of the crime of never having been told about Jesus, but that's okay .. after all, Yahweh loves them, right? And it will be loving torture.

Bugger off. (none / 0) (#8)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 07:38:44 AM PST
I've better things to do than argue with liberalists. I need your lip like I need a hole in my head.

You can consider this a victory on your part, if that makes your shrivelled, black little liberalist heart feel a bit warmer.

Peace and much love...

Thank you! (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 08:40:10 AM PST
You can consider this a victory on your part, if that makes your shrivelled, black little liberalist heart feel a bit warmer.

I do believe I will.

However, you are way off base when you accuse me of being a "liberalist." Liberalism is a parasitic disease that is destroying our society. As an Objectivist, I believe in solid conservative values (particularly economic values) without all of the superstitious gobbledygook.

Objectivism? (none / 0) (#13)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 10:09:06 AM PST
Isn't that some sort of liberalist provocation designed to confuse right-minded (but weak) individuals into swallowing yet another Godless "philosophy"? Hadn't we had enough of fascism and communism yet? Third time's the charm, huh?

Peace and much love...

Ayn FUCKING Rand (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by nx01 on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 10:41:14 AM PST
I thought I smelled her.

Frankly, "Objectivism" (which is really just a bastard, unloved stepchild of ethical egoism) is an extremely silly philosophy. What makes you so important? If you cannot answer that, then your philosophy is an arbitrary docterine with no meaning, in the same way that racism is arbitrary.

It was put this way by a professor I once knew:
  1. Any moral doctrine that assigns greater importance to the interests of one group than to those of another is unacceptably arbitrary unless there is some difference between the members of the groups that justifies treating them differently.
  2. Objectivism would have each person assign greater importance to his or her own interests than to the interests of others. But there is no general difference between oneself and others, to which each person can appeal, that justifies this difference in treatment.
  3. Therefore, objectivism is unacceptably arbitrary.
Frankly, you really should look into finding a better philosopher. I would suggest Jesus Christ. Or, if you must keep to your aspiritual views, why not examine Hume, Kant or some other decent, logically based philosopher?

"Every time I look at the X window system, it's so fucking stupid; and part of me feels responsible for the worst parts of it."
-- James Gosling

May I ask? (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 05:22:58 PM PST
What is your background in economics? I 'm interested to know, since you seem to be claiming that it occupies a central position in your world view. Have you studied it academically? I'd be interested to hear the views of an Objectivist with a solid grounding in the dismal science. I think it's safe to assume that you have at least read the wealth of nations, but have you actually dug any deeper into the field? Like many sciences whose entire factual basis is statistical data, economics is quite dry, once you proceed past the armchair stage. Few are willing to investigate it beyond paging through some of the older, theoretical books, such as Smith and slightly more contemporarily, Keynes.

In my experience, most people who proclaim themselves to have a keen interest in economics are in actuality, interlopers keen only on explaining to the world why the government shouldn't tax them so much. I'm afraid this attitude owes more to the science of spoiled-brat-o-nomics than to economics. I trust you are not one of these dilettantes.

Genesis 2:16 (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by TheReverand on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 08:44:59 AM PST
"And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden"

This is pretty obvious I think. God said do whatever you want.

So bleah. This is a basic tenet of Judeo-Christian philosophy. We can do what we want.

Indeed. (none / 0) (#14)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 10:12:11 AM PST
One should also realize that this isn't meant to be taken literally; the "tree" is a mythological[1] allegory that represents your lifestyle and outlook on life. Meaning, God lets you live whichever way you wish.

[1] "Mythological" meaning "drawing on deep-seated subconcious cultural archetypes". Insert typical yggdrasil reference here.

Peace and much love...

ohhohohohahaha (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 02:42:47 PM PST
Point one: If you've read the reply above, you've seen that "the reverend's" attempt to find some sort of Biblical justification for free will has been completely and utterly demolished.

Point two: Why is it that the Bible is supposed to be interpreted as the literal and inerrant word of God, except in those circumstances where it is more convenient to interpret it symbolically? And aren't you lot commanded to believe that the whole Garden of Eden story is literally true (devilution is a lie concocted by a conspiracy of atheist scientists, no?)

Ahh, lying for Jesus .. (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 02:37:21 PM PST
.. the hallmark of the true fundamentalist.

I see you have conveniently (read: intentionally) left out verse 17:

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

What's this about God saying that you can do "whatever you want?" Isn't it a bit funny that Yahweh considers the idea of people getting knowledge to be its greatest threat? There is an obvious reason for this, of course.

You have been caught in a rather embarrassing and uncomfortable situation.

sad (none / 0) (#26)
by nathan on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 07:21:15 PM PST
'Free will' presupposes that there are things that are wrong. Otherwise, we wouldn't have anything for our will to push on, and there'd be no distinction between desire and action. Now, I'll admit that 'wrong' on its own need not derive from Christian morality. But the point is that for free will to be functional and noticeable, there have to be choices to make, hence a hierarchy of judgements, hence right and wrong.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Hmm (none / 0) (#28)
by Logical Analysis on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 11:38:02 PM PST
Then at a later point they get kicked out of the garden, so that verse is not relevant.

That's not Christianity (none / 0) (#29)
by cp on Sun Nov 11th, 2001 at 03:37:02 PM PST
That's Deism.

Science and God need not be mutually exclusive. (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by chloedancer on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:00:08 AM PST
I see God in the Fibronacci sequence. I also enjoy occasional flights of fancy when contemplating why the molecules that comprise my being remain in an astonishing collectively functional form, despite what I know to be true via science about cells and molecules. And, much as I love the clarity and precision of science, it has yet to quantify or identify the nature of the soul.

As the daughter of a now-retired nuclear physicist and a medical researcher, I have learned that God can be found within the universal mystery that drives the impulse to hypothesize, research, experiment and observe. Oddly enough, I consider my father (the physicist), to be the more religious of my parents, despite the fact that he describes himself as being agnostic (while my mother, the researcher, was a practicing atheist). His expression when he experienced a breakthrough can only be described as ecstatic or beatific in the ecclesiastic sense; he had more faith than the majority of clerical or devout folk I've come to know during this lifetime.

I do agree, however, that science need not be characterized as cold or arrogant. It has beauty and passion, its own poetry and music. It is unfortunate that those who can perceive these characteristics are genuinely rare.

Nonsense. (2.00 / 2) (#4)
by moriveth on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 02:54:49 AM PST
Yes, the standard trope is that science and religion inhabit completely separate domains. Many scientists (albeit far from the majority) feel as you do.

You are wrong. They are wrong.

You believe in a soul? Can it be seen? Felt? Tasted? Does it induce a magnetic field? Does the slightest shread of empirical evidence exist to support its existence? Of course not. Why, then, are you so convinced there is a soul? Why are you also convinced (contrary to all empirical evidence) there is a god?

In reality, science has explained virtually all observable phenomena to an amazingly high degree of precision (usually to a dozen significant figures or more). The Pope and others hold on for dear life to the fact of the Big Bang, which implies the existence of a singularity which they hope they can maintain was caused by God. Admittedly, the nature of a singularity makes explaining the events preceding and immediately following the Big Bang quite difficult. But when that little problem is resolved, there will be nothing left for religion. Nada. Zip. Zilch. (There won't be much left for science, either, but physicists have understood this likelihood for years and will hardly be disheartened by the news.)

You might point to human consciousness as a problem unsolved by science. But before Newton, religious fanatics could point to gravity as an unsolved problem requiring religious explanation. Do you really think that someone isn't going to explain consciousness scientifically, probably within a few decades?

Fundamentally, the old refrain of science being separate from religion perpetuates itself because it allows people like you to justify your belonging to a fundamentally irrational religion in the face of all contrary evidence. Be glad that Descartes is dead, or he'd be guffawing at your evasion of Reason.

Lucidity (none / 0) (#9)
by chloedancer on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 08:26:00 AM PST
There are dedicated scientists and there are those who believe. Right or wrong is of little consequence in this matter; it's just a difference in perception.

A living human body is not the same thing as a corpse; therein lies something that science has yet to grasp and define. Look anyone in the face, and behind those animated features, those changing expressions, in the very eyes, you can catch glimpses the soul. The spark the defines being alive is a definite something; science has yet to prove that nothing vitalizes living creatures and has yet to duplicate the effect. Because the soul of a living creature may as invisible to bodily eyes as is true for a drawn breath, are you implying that air, too, does not exist? (And, for that matter, have you ever looked into a corpse's eyess? Can you honestly say that there isn't an indefinable something lacking therein?)

Until the soul or human consciousness or the spirit or all else that is currently intangible can be proven, I see little harm in choosing to believe that it exists. (Did Newton's proof of gravity really change the way people lived? He may have won the battle, but he didn't win the war.) Aren't all hypotheses and scientific postulations merely questions based on a possible belief until proven or disproven, anyway? If and when such intangibles are explained to my satisfaction, I'm open to reframing my beliefs accordingly.

For the record, I do not belong to a "fundamentally irrational religion" of any name. But that doesn't mean I'm without faith or a belief in the divine and I see no harm in embracing these things as well as welcoming scientific discovery.

And if Descartes were still among the living, he could kiss my sweet, spirited ass! Where Reason is lacking, faith and sheer force of will can make the difference.

Charming ignorance. (none / 0) (#12)
by moriveth on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 09:50:19 AM PST
Science has yet to prove that nothing vitalizes living creatures and has yet to duplicate the effect. Can you honestly say that there isn't an indefinable something lacking therein?
Science has yet to prove that rabid green hyenas rule Mars--a proposition for which, it might be added, exactly as much evidence exists as the existence of the soul.

Do you have faith, chloedancer? Faith in those green hyenas? Why not? Why is it different from faith in God or a soul? Do you hold your faith without any Reason?

I will, in passing, note that your comparison of a soul with air is completely unfounded; our sense-experience of simply walking in a breeze tells us of the existence of air.

Is there harm in holding to beliefs of the irrational? Surely not, you say. In response, I urge you to look at the Taliban, the latest product of religious fanaticism over scientific Reason. Or, if you be more historically minded, at the countless murders committed over the centuries in the name of an unfounded faith. (Do not mention Communism as a counterexample, as it was purly a product of faith in the deities of Marx and Lenin.) Reason and Science offer our only hope of salvation from the evils of irrationality and fanaticism.

But do go on. You have come very near to attempting to define what a soul is. Why don't you continue the effort?

You're both idiots. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Mendax Veritas on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 11:11:49 AM PST
'nuff said.

Hey, whatever gets you through (none / 0) (#17)
by chloedancer on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 11:51:14 AM PST
the long, dark night of the soul, right?

Whether or not you believe that I have faith is of little consequence in my day-to-day reality; therefore, the point is moot.

And I've already indicated that I'm open to accepting Reason as it comes to light, so I'll cheerfully call that one a wash, as well.

I agree that we have yet to concretely observe anything that would definitively confirm the existence of the soul/spirit/lifeforce; it could easily be possible that my observations with regard to the difference between a corpse and a living being could amount to nothing more than a spurious correlation. Until then, however, the question as to what constitutes the difference between those two states of being may be remains and is valid.

As I've stated before, an idea is not responsible for the actions of those who believe in it. As to the idea of science offering hope, that has merit. Still, I'd love to know if Robert Oppenheimer had any undisclosed regrets.

Finally, I wouldn't even dream to entertain the notion that I could definitively define the soul. I've yet to come to terms with something so commonly believed in as love, after all (another bit of "charming ignorance" that Reason has yet to explain away, by coincidence).

My apologies, moriveth, if this does not satisfy your queries. I'm much better at forming questions than finding answers and am content in this regard. I guess I don't perceive myself as being responsible for "enlightening" anyone else; whether or not you accept or share my beliefs is irrelevant.

Oooh vitalism (none / 0) (#19)
by manifold on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:43:21 PM PST
Wow, and there was I thinking that old saw had been dead and buried for decades! Do you also believe in phlogiston?

Phlogiston? (none / 0) (#20)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:50:55 PM PST
No. But a pholliston would be much more interesting...

Peace and much love...

my you're arrogant and stupid (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 04:13:56 PM PST
Does the slightest shread of empirical evidence exist to support its existence?

Do you have the slightest shred of empirical evidence to support the belief that knowledge is entirely revealed by the 5 human senses? Wouldnt it be weird to assume that amoebas just happened to evolve all that was necessary to perceive the universe in *all* its glory? So why do you assume that case for humans?

Do you have the slightest shred of empirical evidence to support the belief that logic is sufficient to infer *all* conclusions about the universe? Why? Computers can do logic, too.

Mutual Exclusivity Need not Apply (none / 0) (#18)
by yellownumber5 on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:13:58 PM PST
I wasn't trying to say that one can't be a scientist and religious. This piece was just to express why I feel I can rely more upon science than religion.

The thing I forgot to mention was that where science has always moved me, religion never has. I remember as a child, going to church with my grandmother, and completely not sharing in what everyone else did as they bent their heads and prayed. The huge difference between what science has made me feel, and what religion has (or hasn't) is what makes me lean the way I do.

Try this (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Right Hand Man on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 04:09:17 AM PST
Scientists, particularly in the medical profession, often declare that certain things are 'nearly impossible'. I have had quite a bit of first hand experience with this and I and many others I know have proven them wrong time after time.

Like yourself I like to think of myself as the type of person who needs some proof of something before I will believe it. Like me, what you need to do is allow Jesus into your life as your savior. Really, truly, embrace all the power that God has to offer, just take that first step. After a few years of living a good clean Christian life you should be ready to find that proof you desire.

Come to the Word of God Church in Pennsylvania (we are pretty far out in the country, a quaint little rural outfit). It is there that you will find proof of the existence of God. I know that any time I find my faith wavering God reaches down and reminds me to believe with a rattlesnake bite to the face. Once you recover from one of those without the benefit of modern medecine, you won't have quite as much faith in the people who tell you you are sure to die as you do in God.

"Keep your bible open and your powder dry."


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