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Science is not a religion, but some scientists ARE religous about their science

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  1. Synesthesiac
    Well I think that the title sums it up quite succinctly. Before I start this rant I should point out that all though these thoughts do apply to a small extent in every area of science they are, from what I have read, most prominent in cosmology, theology and geneology. Three very philosophically problematic sciences.


    The idea that science is a religion is ludicrous, science is an extremely useful internally self consistent system, a vital tool for understanding how the universe works. Religion is an attempt at changing peoples thought systems, some might say, a sycophantic type of moral law. No religion is consistant with one another in most regards. And you have to balance all the positive effects individuals get (church's, spiritual guidance, etc) against the mass atrocities that have happened over the years due to religion. And still do. Most religious leaders are slightly bigoted, due to their dated beliefs.

    Take for example a very rough overview of what the average scientist is. They go to work, do their research, go to a lecture, and then they come home from all that to whats important, their family and wife/husband. I've noticed that those people that have religious type convictions about scientific areas will tend to not have partners, or instead strained relationships, as they are so vehemently engrossed in their subject they have time for little else. Some get the balance right and can carry on happily seeking their subconscious god through science whilst keeping things in order. Lots end up as crackpots too however, bitter when their revelation is out-dated and refuse to admit this.

    Now consider a hypothetical religious scientist. Since a kid he was always fascinated with time and where the universe came from and decided this was his career path. After studying the literature in depth he understands the theory, but to him its more than a theory, its a blueprint that can reveal to him the secret of the creation of the universe, or the answer to philosophical matters, like the argument from universal causation. And this is what he's always looking for in the data, better explanations of a creation event. To him data and time periods can reveal special information, for example the exact millisecond the universe was created, the Planck time 10-43s can be deduced, and many other figures and times. These numbers, to a normal scientist are just data, but to the religious scientist its more like a revelation from the universe. You will often hear the mathematicians saying the theory is "beautiful" and "mystical" or words to that effect at this point. The apparent accuracy of the models results makes the person loose sight that this is one data set out of many, the error bounds on the figures are enormous, new better equipment is made all the time, and many other reasons.

    A normal scientist may get new data that shows the old data to be wrong, and he will just forget about the previous results. The religious scientist tries his hardest to keep the figures he previously worked out were significant in some way in the literature. And thus starts the downward spiral into crackpot-en-dom. After finding his religious revelation he has no intention of loosing it. To him its the secret of the universe that can be used for boundless purposes. So he'll probably invent something metaphysical like Aether Quantum Dynamics to explain why hes right and everyone else is wrong.


    I guess what I'm saying in a roundabout way is that scientists that distance themselves from their work and the meaning of it all (maybe in exchange for a happy family life) always seem to end up inadvertently finding much better scientific discoveries than the religious type of scientist. They also have the ability to admit openly when their theory is falsified, and they move on. A religious scientist would NEVER let that happen.


    The way I see it is that normal scientists are doing a great job at expanding our understanding of the universe and consciousness. All the theories seem to fit ..... kinda nicely at the moment, and there are new branches like epigenetics and nano technology which look very interesting.

    And the religious scientists? Well, most of them are mad as a hatter and completely wrong about all their work. Their contributions to the literature hold back progress of other areas. However, this thinking outside the box (outside the internally self consistent scientific model) is bound to come up with some gems in the future. Think of Hoyle and the "Big Bang", which he said in jest, but later evidence pointed towards him being correct. He was also correct about many other things too, and a very religious man.


    After slagging off religious scientists so much I should end by saying that not all religious scientists are bad for scientific progress, there's the occasional gem that shines bright enough to catch the eye of the people working on their internally self consistent theories, and many times over the years these ideas have been picked up.

    Rant rant rant.


    EDIT: I should make clear that this is not aimed at biologists really, more cosmologists who remain totally blind to the gaping assumptions in their models, which I can only explain as some sort of religious blind spot. Which they often fill in with a "god".

    And these quotes from some of the most prominant cosmologists are very revealing;

    http://home.pacbell.net/skeptica/religion.html

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