Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Science and Religion Mix, Cont'd

Problems with the criticism of religious faith.

From the article:
A certain Dr. Hauptman is of the opinion that "Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race."

Both these assertions are generalisations and are therefore at times, inaccurate. It is quite conceivable that a scientist could live with two entirely different systems of thought, and choose to practice one without reference to the other. It is even conceivable that a scientist could take those parts of either system of thought and transfer compatible elements from one to the other. For example, certain types of religious thought involve humility in the face of truth, an awareness that we cannot be certain of our knowledge. This is completely compatible with scientific enquiry, where theories may be falsified, but cannot be verified and best practice involves holding even our apparently best theories tentatively.

His second assertion, that religious belief is damaging to the human race, is not true. Religious belief MAY be damaging to the human race, e.g.: religiously based prohibitions over the use of stem cells may well have cost people their lives, but it is also the case that religious belief will have furthered scientific endeavors, for example, in giving scientists greater motivation to work harder in the belief that this is their duty to God and his fellow men.

The problems with the above criticisms are commonplace in attempts by atheists to discredit religious faith. Dawkins also frequently makes this kind of error which involves not dealing with the fact that religion is a complex mix of a huge variety of ideas, some of which are useful, meaningful, rational and constructive and tally well with and could inform good science. Good criticisms should attempt to deal with the object of criticism as it really is and recognise the value of the good parts.

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