What Science Can Learn From Religion

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I agree with DeSteno, that open hostility between science and religion is not good for science.


So apparently “what science can learn from religion” is stretching the subject a bit, which at its core seems to be that science can use religious practices as a source of hypotheses about human behavior. Some of those hypotheses are a bit scary, like the one about repeating things you don’t believe causing you eventually to believe them.

Completely misses what should be the main bone of contention: that religion and science conflict most deeply in epistemology.

That is too broad a statement as it depends on the type of religion. I’m feeling zero conflict here personally.

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I don’t think it is and I don’t think it does. The conflict would only be eliminated by a purely empirical religion with no reliance on revelation or faith. Are there any such?

Science isn’t purely emperical and neither are you. So what is your point?

You will have to clarify the point about science. And I don’t always act as a scientist.

Have you ever read Kuhn or Polanyi?

Also do you believe racism is wrong?

How does Occam’s razor fit in with 100% emperical science?

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An interesting article and written in a balanced manner - that is refreshing nowadays.

It seems to me that the article is putting forward the religion as adaptation model. Like E.O. Wilson, or the “terror management theory,” etc. Brett Weinstein, of late, seems to be talking about religion in this way also.

I’m never quite sure what to make of it when religion/faith is reduced down to an evolutionary adaptation. Perhaps from the book of science that’s exactly how it appears. Is there more to it…well, that’s from another book, I guess.

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As I said, I don’t always act as a scientist.

It’s an empirically tested heuristic. Why?

Wasn’t that why Pascal thought one should make his wager (since he agreed God would see through insincere claims of belief)?

Yes, they conflict, if you mean religions that try to make knowledge claims about the phenomena in the domains of the sciences.

But what about moral or metaphysical claims, as examples?

I would also agree that religions that say individual mystical experiences or personal revelations are valid claims of knowledge in those domains do conflict with philosophical epistemology. But I assuming claims of knowledge must be intersubjectively justifiable to any neutral participant. I suspect not all would agree with me on that.

There is more to science than picking theories that fit the data, if that is what you mean by empirical.

Simplicity, falsifiability, richness in prediction power, brittleness, compatibility with fundamental physics, consilience, elegance, and so on, cannot be directly tested empirically. That is, two scientists can reasonably disagree on whether a theory meets one of these criteria or disagree on how to weight them in judging a theory. They cannot resolve their disagreement solely by looking at the data that supports the theory.

Now you can argue for a second order empirical testing by saying such criteria have worked in the past. But that is solely a backwards looking. It does not help decide how to apply and weight them in current theories. It only justifies that we should try to do so.

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What about them, and as examples of what?

Isn’t that true for all inferences from empirical data? Science relies on induction.

As examples of domains where claims of knowledge cannot conflict with science because they lie outside of science’s domain (which does not mean that we need not consider science when making knowledge claims in these domains.)

I personally believe philosophy only should be used to make inquiries in these domains.

But others may consider religion as a valid source of knowledge, eg on the existence of God or on moral standards. Science cannot conflict epistemologically with such religious claims because it is not a complete set of tools for epistemology in those domains.

Well, of course, induction cannot be justified empirically,as Hume showed! And induction alone can only suggest possible theories, not determine one uniquely. In general, an unlimited number of polynomials can be fit to a finite set of points. Not that I am saying theories are expressed always as polynomials of course . The inability to select a single theory based solely on data is called underdetermination.

More importantly, there is more to science than induction and deduction. I think that for theory building and selection, science relies mainly on Inference to the Best Explanation, which is adbuctive, not inductive. The factors I mentioned in upthread post, including fit to empirical data, are the criteria which enter into the scientific process to try to come to consensus on best explanation…

Further, I have realized IBE also applies to past-looking explanations of which of those factors entered into past selections of best theory. So I was wrong to say it was second order empirical. Rather it is second order IBE.

I want to be clear that is is science, not philosophy, that determines and applies the relevant best criteria to select theories.

SEP on underdetermination

SEP on abduction, induction, deduction and roles in science.

Sure it can: by induction. It can’t be justified as logical proof, but that’s not the standard of science. Isn’t that what Hume was talking about?

I have never thought much about the difference between abduction, induction, hypothetico-deduction, etc., so can’t address the rest.

Exactly. Those standards are the non-empirical aspects I mean.

Abduction (AKA IBE) is just a fancy name for arguments that I see all the time when it comes to general discussions of the justification for evolution.

Consilience is an example of IBE: What’s best explanation of the various lines of evidence Darwin quoted to justify his theory of evolution? How do we choose best tree in phylogenetics? I don’t think induction would cover the reasoning process; rather it is best explanation of multiple converging lines of evidence. Which is abduction.

But “best” requires picking and weighting standards. So that is what I mean by going beyond the data.

Short video here which captures concepts of induction, abduction, deduction clearly.

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I would hate to see Calvinism applied to modern human psychology. At best, there are some major post hoc rationalizations when people try to marry religious practices and the science of human behavior.

I think that really depends on what type of theology we are looking at. Science doesn’t make any ontological claims, so there isn’t any necessary conflict between the two. However, conflict can arise when theological beliefs try to claim scientific support.

Not sure what you’re getting at there. What I was trying to say is that science relies on empirical observation, while religion relies on revelation and feelings. These are incompatible “ways of knowing”. Now what were you talking about?

That is similar to what I was thinking. Science is a method, and it doesn’t make any claims about what is ultimately or absolutely true in a philosophical sense. Religion is based on revelation and feelings, and it does make statements about what is ultimately or absolutely true. As SJG put it:

Still unclear on why that avoids conflict. Science doesn’t claim certainty while religion does, but science also claims that religious certainty is unfounded.