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Posts Tagged ‘comte’

www.issr.org.uk/ Science Vs ReligionThis kind of also answers the question about why I write this blog. I think that it is a sensible question to ask and the reason is that I first started this blog was when I came across the work of Richard Dawkins, I agreed with what he said. That is not why I still continue, the reason is that for a lot of the time I think that science is misunderstood and for that matter perhaps logic too! Here was me thinking that some sort of Religion could be in place without it bothering the rest of us, Dawkins introduced the idea that ‘truth’ with religion being very much outside in the dark. Science has had to deal with truth and being a postgraduate currently studying science, I have had to deal with truth as well. Science is not a stable thing, it’s messy and a lot of the time it is acknowledged that science can only explain certain things under certain conditions. Science and Religion both create their own concept of what is true in the world.

The temptation might be here for you to think that both science and religion offer different versions or accounts of the same things, you’d be right in part of course. Still there is a big difference, science has or never could directly challenge religion, at least not in its true form, as the whole point of science is not to create a version of reality rather to simply show it as it is. Religion does create a reality, whether it is a kind God who is listening to your wishes or informing you what would be the “Christian” thing. Science exists to help you decide what you could do; Religion exists to tell you what you should. The most fundamental difference I have found is that as an individual you can pile into Science, you can easily go out to test its reasoning as well as add to body of knowledge it creates, it builds up over time and with validation the truth moves. In Religion people tend to pile out of it, they go to a place to hear and see things and then they take that knowledge away which is said to be true. Science offers the tools of investigation whereas religion simply offers a version of the knowledge, you might argue here that science also offers a version of knowledge and you would be correct. The point is that it never stops there and the body of knowledge is moving and responsive, the real difference is the process of reason rather than the presentation of information. If you stand in science, you’d see a useful set of tools and knowledge to which is more often than not will benefits people’s lives. It has never ending questions to which you might never get the answers too or you might get one question answered to only have the process produce a whole new set of questions. If you stand in religion and ask the question ‘Why?’ it’s because of God and that ends the conversation.

Please see my earlier post titled “Why does science still grow when it can be so wrong? Why did science happen and take hold in Europe?” it explains in more detail some of the issues that I have discussed here. Both Comte and Durkheim authored in their own ways three types of understandings or worlds, the first was that of Custom & habit. The second being that of the God ultimate and the last being that of logic & reason. Rather than being able for an individual to exist in two or more of these worlds, they instead moved from one to the other and this was the result of human progress. In this poor example, people used to bury their loved ones in a certain manner and this built up in each generation to include certain rituals. Even me starting at burying is one jump too soon, it could be once when people died they were left on the ground but insects and animals used to eat the bodies so someone thought that putting them in the ground would stop those insects and animals. So this was adopted and happened in the next generation, this is a building up process and this is what happened in the first world. In the second world, the first was removed because now whole societies would bury their dead in the same way and this include, almost at a national level, a set of rituals prescribed for each event plus a new understanding of why we do it this way, God. You could not accept the irrational & illogical version of the second world, say believing in God, and then also buy into the rational and logical third world. They are incompatible to each other at a fundamental level; the third world demands the removal of the second.

I could say that types of religious scientists lived in an earlier time where science had not really developed but that is not really true. Science is there, according to Comte and others, to get at the natural laws which govern the world which we live in. Steven Nadler describes God as nature, everything that happens in nature also happens because of God if you believe in God that is. I hope that confused you a little because its then a true reflection of what actually happens. I would like to bring up David Sloan Wilson here now, as his idea of the practical and factual realism helped me understand why scientists can be religious. In factual realism we deal with truths as far as we can understand them, this is a true reflection of what actually is going on and with any hope these understandings are removed from agenda. Science attempts to deal with factual realism and how do we know this? Well, if you ask yourself and others what happens after someone dies you would get a range of different answers some from faith and others from personal feelings. From this we can see there is no fact or truth from these statements since some could be right others of them could be wrong, you have no way of knowing which one is actually the right answer. When was the last time an X-ray suffered from this problem? Well never unless the machine was broken to which it could be fixed in accordance with the knowledge of how it works. So factual realism is very important and so far most of what I have talked about is based on this notion of science.

Practical realism is a lot more interesting, it states that knowledge that we have, even if not based on fact, works because it allows us to get on with our everyday lives. If we think that doing something which in turns makes us lucky and benefits us by having a successful day then all I can say is that it exists & is worthy of our attention, it’s not based on fact still it allows us to take control of seemingly random events. It does provide benefits including filling in some of the gaps in how we understand the world. In this way scientist can defer to practical realism in order to make sense or fulfil a need. This has been seen to be true in terms of science, in all its forms, when science interlaces with those still using in part their practical realism. So even though religion is outside what is required for belief in science, it still can be present at times. It is particularly easy for scientists not involved in areas that would question Religion, such as a chemist it seems more likely they would have a religious perspective rather than a biologist with connections with evolution. Although this is not always true! One thing I have noticed is that scientists that argue from a religious stand point offer bad science in re-turn. If we go back to how societies bury their dead if all you believed in was science, science does not really offer any help or comfort and religion seems to score one in this department. The structure of religious ritual is universal in a lot of sets or groups of people and this structure appears to be useful. It is in these great unknowns where science is not the light; religion can be the candle even though we never really know if it was the right thing to do.

A little more on this matter…

TIME magazine

Intelligent design has been reject as a pseudoscience, still the debate between Collins and Dawkins is very interesting presented in this TIME article, both come as scientists but only Collins has belief in God. There are many from the scientific corner who are outraged to the insult upon rationality when arguments are presented by intelligent design (ID). Dawkins suggests that the most powerful building block of ID is in fact within the name, design, once we can understand the life on earth was not designed then we remove the whole concept of God from the table. Collins on the other hand offers the idea that Genesis cannot be subjected to the tools of science and furthermore, we simply cannot understand Genesis at all.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132,00.html

The answer to the question is rather a muddy perhaps not!

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Image taken from - www.d.umn.edu One thing that amazes me is that science tends to work quite often; I don’t need to tell you that you already know. The point here is that it tends to work, still there are places where the misunderstanding of science comes in, these are my thoughts on how science sometimes is not based upon real knowledge rather agenda based needs. The aim of the positivists who had its home in part in Vienna, one of the most liberal places in the world at the turn of the last century, was to create an independent body of knowledge that in affect was a real reflection of the world as it exists. In truth as the result of the Vienna circle and those the preceded & came after the circle created three types of worlds, the members are most likely known to you such as Comte, Ayer and Carnap. Ok you have only heard of Comte, that’s ok the names are not that important here. The first world they created was that of Faith and habit, this world was seen as those unimportant things each generation picked up and their children adopted this meant very little because they could not be seen as true and were different from person to person. The second world was that of the metaphysical, in other words religion and its use of explaining the events that where happening. Since this again can’t be observed and tends to differ, this world was also dismissed. The third world was created by the rational and logical person, with the assumption of the scientific method; there are many assumptions in this method. The idea was not that these three worlds could survive side-by-side rather, the second world had replaced the first and the third would replace the second.

 Science as the key to Understanding the world – Science can get it very wrong – In the 19th Century there was a strong organic model that was adopted from the field of biology and was used on one group of people, the poor. This I could describe as the first type of eugenics formed by science, it saw those suffering from poverty not as the result of the society being unfair as it was at the time rather a different and dangerous race of people. At the time of the research there was a great worry about the conditions people were living in and the diseases that were being created by the support of the industrial revolution that were forming tightly packed cities. The poor were seen has having a choice about how they lived when clearly the choice was never given to them, there was no welfare state and if you did not work then you did not eat. Science got this approach wrong and was later dismissed as working and living conditions improved. Still this idea of the race of the poor came about because the scientists involved used their personal experience to understand a social problem and they were not objective.

Science as the progress of society – Newton published in “The Opticks” 1704 the results of how light when it goes through a prism Image from www.wikimedia.orgseparates into the colour spectrum, removing the idea that white light itself cannot be broken down and is only made up of one element. Why did this even matter to Newton? He could have not understood the benefits that would later be developed from this idea; in part we can thank him for the ability to understand radiation and infrared light which are also based on the same spectrum. Perhaps the drive to understanding the world was his greatest force. Newton did provide something much more useful, the idea of induction. I won’t go into induction that deeply here but it is the idea that first you can close the world off and take out the things you want to test putting them in an artificial environment in the process. In other words putting the objects of study into an experiment to see their nature & relationship and this is where science can also go wrong. Taking the objects of study outside of the real world so we can test them, means something more – it means that we are unable to test them in the world, so effectively science never deals with the reflection of the world. Just a controlled version of it! Most science is pushed into explanations of real world things, it is important to remember that science is simply a theoretical model and theories sometimes go wrong.

So why does Science appear to be a contradiction and wrong at times, it’s first that scientist belong to a society and being part of the society with values & social identities, those can get in the way of a rational and logical person. Although the aim is to remove the first and second worlds, they do exist and what we take from them affects who & what is studied and with what aims. This is still happening and if you don’t believe me maybe you would like to visit the Creationist museum in Kentucky. Even if the creationist museum is right, not that I believe it is, then there are still others to provide the contradiction. The second is the misunderstanding of science, it is in essence a working model of the world which does not mean that it will predict or be able to control events in real life from those working models. This is not to say there should be an abandonment of science, it is very useful. Things have come from science that are valuable and people rely on it every single day, so although it can be powerful that does not mean that science is 100% a true reflection of the world, rather it is closer to the true reflection than any other body of knowledge. Evidence that refutes current belief changes that belief and this is why the model of science keeps on growing. The ability to explain and provide is not enough, the ability to change and stand up against evidence is its greatest strength even if it can only be 95% effective at best.

We come to why science happened and took hold in Europe, this is not a simple question to answer because during the dark ages Europe dismissed science and others in the world had a much greater use of it. There came about a new set of social and historical conditions, this was a move away from the divine and the rejection of God as the one in control of the world. Human knowledge took control and this came about through four sets of general changes. With the development of the nation states across Europe it developed the idea of liberalization and social reform. The idea of making your country better and dealing with social problems was at least on the table and the solutions to the problems could be allowed to grow. There was also a change in attitude; people started to think that reason could hold the key to the ability of changing the world. If there was ever going to be a method of making life better science was seen as the most effective one to meet that aim. The old methods of the divine had its chance and it fail to make the necessary improvements. Religion itself caused the place where science could slowly form; it was because of differing religions that caused so many wars and conflicts that resulted in the social development of an understanding for the tolerance of new concepts and ideas. Once people got fed up with conflict they allowed others to think what they would like to and this opened the door for the scientific method. Last of all there was a change in the model of business; once the industrial revolution happened there was a value change in people and by this I mean how much they were worth to a society. With the development of the capitalist market just because someone was a lord it did not matter, money really did make the world go around. This rejection of the old ways allowed the successful and intelligent a place to do their work, rather than a presubscribed position being allocated.

The power of the new idea of humans and their role to play started the shift away from the traditional towards the new methods. The needs of humans became the force of the aims of science. They were able to work together to produce a new set of knowledge and the more success supplied, the higher the role and importance of science. This is of course is a very short history but it is the general direction that happened. I would like to put the reference links in here but that seems too lengthy a process however, if you are interested in the reference books please let me know and I will give them to you. I would recommend Smith’s Social Science in question, ISBN 0-7619-6041-4 if you are interested in learning more.

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