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Old 10-17-2003, 02:09 PM   #1
Master_Keralys
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Lightbulb Where is the line between science and theology?

Okay, here's the other debate from the rationality/irrationality thread.

We have been discussing the rational line between science and theology: where does science end and theology begin? How much of theology can be quantified rationally, and how much of it is based on internal things - that is, experience?

The beginning so this thread is still over there (unless a moderator could move it - I don't know if they can or not, so...), so if you want to read what has been posted before, it's mixed in the "Rational Thought vs. Irrational Thought" thread.

Again, this is not a thread for bashing religion. I ask the moderators to remove anything not on a rational discussion (not argument) of this particular topic. We have those threads already; this is for rational discussion of the idea only - not the religions themselves, except perhaps in minor ways as examples.


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Old 10-17-2003, 04:33 PM   #2
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Good job starting the new threads Keralys

OK - back to our bungie-jump analogy.

You seem to agree that the bungie-jump analogy is a good one. If so, do you accept this 'conclusion' you could draw from the analogy:

'Just because I can't know the INTERNAL or PERSONAL truths of bungie jumping, does not mean I cannot determine the EXTERNAL or LITERAL truths concerning bungie jumping...'

I would then extend that to theology.

'Just because I can't know the INTERNAL or PERSONAL truths concerning a particular theology, doesn't mean I can't determine the EXTERNAL or LITERAL truths of that theology.'

Would you not agree this is a valid statement?

Where I think you may try and counter is in the statement - 'You cannot prove God'.
...this may be true.

...but that DOES not mean God is an INTERNAL or PERSONAL truth.

God either does, or does not exist. Whether you and I or anybody else disagrees on the fact, that does not alter the LITERAL existence of God.

The only difference between the LITERAL truth of God, and other LITERAL truths is that the concept of God is - inherently - BEYOND REASON.

i.e. if God did not want us mortals to prove his existence, since he is omnipotent, he could HIDE from us, no matter WHAT we try and do to detect him.

Therefore, he COULD NEVER BE DISPROVED.

But at the end of the day, this does not alter the fact that the existence of God is a LITERAL truth - and NOT a personal one...

Last edited by CloseTheBlastDo; 10-17-2003 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 10-17-2003, 06:51 PM   #3
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Exactly. God, if He exists (which is outside the scope of this particular debate), has nothing - absolutely nothing to do with our own perceptions. He is absolute. And most definitely a literal truth. Just because He is outside the realm of science to quantify doesn't mean He can't exist.

Which, of course, begs the question, where does science end? Because it must reach a point where science can no longer quantify what truth is. That's one reason many scientists are atheists; they don't like the thought that there's something forever beyond their reach. Which is disturbing to the rational human mind.


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Old 10-17-2003, 07:30 PM   #4
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Yes, you are right.
Science can NEVER and WILL NEVER prove that God does not exist.

This is because science cannot move beyond rational thinking - and God - as a theory - is inherently beyond and above any 'mortal' rational thinking.

But, let's turn this around for a second.

Let's say God exists, and decides that he will just prove to mankind he exists once and for all.

No holes barred.
Any miracle goes.

What could - for example - the God described in the Bible do to PROVE infinite power.

Before we answer this, let's consider a theory many of us would consider 'crazy'.

Some people believe that what we consider as God are actually aliens advanced beyond our imagination.
...in fact, some people believe Christ himself was an alien, and some people claim to communicate with aliens, in a very similar manner to prayer.
(When I saw this on TV, the guy was blabbering a lot, and when he first 'called in' to the aliens, it sounded like he was trying to hail traffic control or something!! VERY intreaging...)

Anyway, I don't believe it. I'm fairly sure you don't either!!
But remember our rule - we can only dismiss the theory on rational grounds.

...so, let's argue that whatever miracle God performed, the 'God Alien' people might claim 'Well, a really advanced alien could do that'.

God calls down a pillar of fire. "Aliens could do that"
God parts the red sea. "Aliens could do that"
God becomes human and then 'overcomes' death. "Aliens could do that"

So - what COULD prove infinite power?

If God came down, sat next to me and said - 'So how can I prove I am indeed all powerful'.
What would I ask?

...how about 'Can you make all the stars in the sky fly all over the place really fast!!'
'Sure thing'. He waves his hand, and suddenly all the constellations start changing shape - or just plain flying right over to another part of the night sky...

...now THAT is impressive. Not only is he doing something requiring unimaginable amounts of power, he's breaking all our known laws of space and time in the process!!!

I could certainly believe that a being with THAT much control over the environment was the one who MADE the universe in the first place...


My point at the end of the day is this:

I accept that science cannot DIS-prove God.
..but I think it's considered a lot easier to 'prove' God - scientifically or otherwise, whereas I, personally, am not so sure.

This isn't really a point I'm making in any kind of any contentious way -just an interesting observation more than anything.

One interesting note does come out of it though...
...one aspect of many 'theologies' is that you should believe in God 'whole-heartedly'. Another way to put it is 'You should not question God'.

But - if I am to respect my ideals of rational thought, I have no choice. I HAVE to question God to some extent to know if, indeed - he / she / it IS in fact God in the first place!!

So It's almost like I'm 'damned' just for being rational - which seems slightly unfair really!

These are retorical questions though. I'm not trying to make a contentious point, which I hope you can appreciate.
To be honest, I think I'm just starting to ramble now...

Last edited by CloseTheBlastDo; 10-18-2003 at 10:34 AM.
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Old 10-18-2003, 10:52 AM   #5
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Also, continuing the idea of INTERNAL or PERSONAL truth in regards to theology.

There is the concept in at least most religions of knowing your particular faith is true by your 'feelings'. This was certainly part of my religious upbringing.

The idea was taught to me essentially in this manner:

Quote:
'As long as, after you have studied and prayed about the word of God, you feel GOOD about God's teachings and his works, then you KNOW the LITERAL truth that God does indeed exist.

Your 'feelings' are your testimony. And this testimony is as REAL as any EXTERNAL 'evidence'.
In fact, when I was bought up, I was told that my 'testimony' was even MORE important, sometimes, than EXTERNAL truth - especially in the case where someone would talk in a negative manner about God's church, or his words to me in a manner that SEEMS rational, and SEEMS to make sense.

...in this case, I should not pay attention to the person who is trying to 'leading me astray'. But, instead, cling to my INTERNAL feelings and testimony.


OK - so first of all, I would propose that this entire concept is inherantly irrational.
First of all, we have made clear many times that INTERNAL or PERSONAL truth is seperate from EXTERNAL or LITERAL truth. In fact you yourself argued that emotions are not even 'true'.

Also, the second part is also irrational - and also, for my part -I personally consider it quite sinister too.
My faith basically told me not to listen to somebody else's argument and evidence if it in any way seemed to contridict the teachings of God.
Of course, this is one of the first big rules we agreed upon - you cannot 'stick your head in the sand'.


OK - so at least MY faith was irrational in many regards - I can say that for a fact.
And THIS is the important point -I was 'trained' to be irrational by my 'faith'

Now, I know that ALL religions don't teach exactly the same things I was.
But almost ALL religions - as far as I'm aware - at the very least have the conecpt of INTERNAL testimony which is to be taken as LITERALLY as EXTERNALLY true...

Last edited by CloseTheBlastDo; 10-20-2003 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 10-22-2003, 05:51 PM   #6
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That's a slightly different take on a "testimony". At my church, and in my family, as well as in my studies of the Bible, I have seen a testimony to be something done by God of which there is external evidence. Now, that evidence might be debated, but there are actually studies that indcate that there's something more going on.

Now, for example, a multitude of studies - many conducted by unbiased outsiders - have shown that prayer has a drastic effect on the recovery of patients. This has been corroborated by the whole placebo effect thing. They've taken patients and told them they were being prayed for - and didn't pray for them. They've taken patients and prayed for them without telling them. They've told patients they're being prayed for and prayed for them. And the final control group, not told, not prayed for.

Without a doubt, those who were prayed for did considerably better than those who weren't. Placebo effect had little or no impact on the degree to which that was true.

I'm not offering this as absolute proof that my God of the Bible is it. I'm simply pointing out that there are things that really wouldn't seem to have any effect from a purely scientific perspective, yet obviously do.

Things like that are a "testimony". Now, if someone could show that beyond a shadow of a doubt what I believe is a lie, I would believe them. That is, if I could go back and see that Christ never did any miracles, never rose from the dead. If they could prove God is not real, or even that He is not who He says He is in the Bible, then I would believe them. But no one can prove that. Period.

Thus, there is a point where it would take an irrational suspension of my mind to actually give in to people saying that. Now, there's a difference between saying "It's true because it says it is" and "I believe it because a great deal of evidence points to there being validity and truth to it." The latter is my standpoint now. When I was young, I believed the first part, of course. Now, though, my belief is rational. Believe me, if taking the biology courses and whatnot that are at my school can't outweigh the rational evidence for Christianity, then there is a reason that Christianity is what I believe.

Moreover, there are countless people that have gone out with the expressed intent to disprove the Bible - and ended up converting. How convincing is that? Again, it's not definite proof. But what they found is good evidence. For anyone who wants to know what I'm talking about, read Josh McDowell's The Case for Christ (I think that's what it's call anyway).

Just some thoughts.


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Old 10-22-2003, 08:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by CloseTheBlastDo
....He waves his hand, and suddenly all the constellations start changing shape - or just plain flying right over to another part of the night sky...

I could certainly believe that a being with THAT much control over the environment was the one who MADE the universe in the first place...
Or you've just gone insane, or unknowingly being under the influence of some hallucinogen or stuck in a VR, or fallen victim to some crafty illusionist (perhaps an alien or extradimensional prankster with weird technology or mental powers), or.....I trust you see what I'm getting at.

Quote:
Originally posted by Master_Keralys
Now, for example, a multitude of studies - many conducted by unbiased outsiders - have shown that prayer has a drastic effect on the recovery of patients. This has been corroborated by the whole placebo effect thing. They've taken patients and told them they were being prayed for - and didn't pray for them. They've taken patients and prayed for them without telling them. They've told patients they're being prayed for and prayed for them. And the final control group, not told, not prayed for.

Without a doubt, those who were prayed for did considerably better than those who weren't. Placebo effect had little or no impact on the degree to which that was true.
I'd like to see some documentation for this, please.


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Old 10-22-2003, 09:18 PM   #8
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Theology is like philosophy. It assumes religion is "real" and tries to compartmentalize and understand the tenents of a belief system.

Philosophy and Theology are not science. They cannot be proven "true" or "untrue" in the same way that scientific theories can be proven or disproven (and of course you may draw a distinction and say that science unlike mathematics does not deal in "proofs" but rather "theory" with evidence and "better theory" with more supporting evidence, and "laws" with very firm foundation in observed and tested phenomena).

Philosophy and Theology are useful in that they help to understand belief systems that people subscribe to and debate amongst them with ideas.

They are also useful because science in and of itself does not make moral judgements or answer moral questions.

Scientists may have opinions and beliefs of their own, but the scientific method does not say to them "Don't build bombs... they are used to kill people and killing people is wrong, so it would be wrong to build more powerful bombs."

Science just says "building bombs are possible... here are some possible ways they could be built and how they would work."

Science is a tool for understanding the mechanics of the universe we live in. Theology and Philosophy are tools for understanding morality, ethics and the meaning of our lives.


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Old 10-23-2003, 01:48 AM   #9
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I slightly disagree with you, Kurgan. Theology could be proven by the object of the discussion of theology - that is, God.

However, you are absolutely right that they are not like regular science. Moreover, your point about science being separate from moral distinctions is critical. All too often, a worldview based solely on science would utterly destroy the morals that keep the world from going boom as some freak with nukes goes nuts. Civilization is protected by religion - or destroyed by it, at times (I'm sure someone would bring that up).

Basing a worldview solely on scientific claims which are often unproven is dangerous. Very dangerous.

As far as the studies go, I can't remember where I found them to save my life; I've seen it reported in the newspaper (and a fairly reliable paper, at that). If you run a search you should be able to find it; just watch out for falsified or exaggerated information.


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Old 10-26-2003, 04:58 PM   #10
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Each tool is neutral. It can be used for good or for evil.

Theology can be used to break down barriers between people and promote harmony and equality (anti-slavery, civil rights, temperance, solidarity, peace movements, etc), and it can be used to promote fear and bloodshed (crusades, jihad, inquisitions, witch hunts).

Likewise scientific advances and research can lead to incredible boons to mankind (medicines, higher living standards through beneficial technology, environmental understanding) or threats to our very existence (pollution, weapons of mass destruction, eugenics).


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