Is Science Just Another Religion?

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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:14 am

I found this in Wikipedia under Philosophy of Science:
Philosophy of science has historically been met with mixed response from the scientific community. Though scientists often contribute to the field, many prominent scientists have felt that the practical effect on their work is limited; a popular quote attributed to physicist Richard Feynman goes, “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” In response, some philosophers (e.g. Jonathan Schaffer) have pointed out that it is likely that ornithological knowledge would be of great benefit to birds, were it possible for them to possess it.

It sheds some light on our current debate and hopefully lightens the tone a little.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby jeeprs » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:23 am

I like the Feynmann quote. But I also think that 'philosophy of science' ought to inform science. At the beginning of the modern period, science was called 'natural philosophy'. This was, in large part, because of the politics involved in discussing anything religious was highly contentious - 'enter at your peril'! The charter of the Royal Society was based on the explicit exclusion of anything that could be understood as on being the turf of the scholastics or the metaphysicians. So 'natural' was given a pretty specific meaning: things that can be investigated by the empirical sciences. But this rests on certain basic assumptions as to what constitutes reality, and what ought to be excluded from consideration. So there are certain kinds of things which are felt to be outside that, certain kinds of explanations which are not likely to be sought, and so on.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:55 am

jeeprs wrote:I also think that 'philosophy of science' ought to inform science.

I have long held the impression that the philosophy of science was the toy of philosophers and had little to do with the work that scientists actually do. It had never occurred to me that the scientific approach could ever need justification, and continue to be bewildered that not all thinking people hold it in the same high esteem as I do. This is not to say that I believe they ought to. In fairness I concede that my willingness to embrace scientific method is as valid as others' unwillingness, even if I really can't fathom why.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby jeeprs » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:21 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
jeeprs wrote:I also think that 'philosophy of science' ought to inform science.

I have long held the impression that the philosophy of science was the toy of philosophers and had little to do with the work that scientists actually do. It had never occurred to me that the scientific approach could ever need justification, and continue to be bewildered that not all thinking people hold it in the same high esteem as I do. This is not to say that I believe they ought to. It is clear to me now that my willingness to embrace science is as valid as others' unwillingness, even if I really can't fathom why.


There's a profound difference between science and philosophy - but it is a difference is not visible to science, and as science is so prestigious in today's world, it is a difference which very few people will understand.

Besides, philosophy of science doesn't have a lot of impact on the 'work scientists actually do' - and maybe it doesn't need to have. But the point is, there are questions that are quite out-of-scope for science and the scientific method. The kinds of questions are those which philosophy, in a general sense, and the Buddhist teaching, in particular, consider.

I mean, consider the scientific response to 'suffering and the cause of suffering'. It would mainly consist of medical science, would it not? And what it can do to ameliorate the suffering associated with illness and injury is just amazing. There is simply no question about that and I would never doubt it. But there is suffering of a completely different order, isn't there? Such as the suffering caused by selfishness, by loneliness, by alienation, by the lack of relatedness to others. And there's plenty of that around. Now, what does science have to say about that? Very little, I suggest. But this is not to disparage science in the least. It is just a matter of knowing where it does and does not apply. It is precisely when science is said to have all the answers, or the only answers worth having, that it does start to become like a religion - the religion of scientism, which is both insidious and powerful in today's world.

As it happens, what I see in science attempting to grapple with these existential questions, is the attempt to medicalise such problems, which I don't think is very useful. (See this opinion piece).

On the other hand, Buddhist meditation offers a relatively simple and direct way of dealing with the problem at its root. Fortunately, science, or rather, some scientists, are starting to realize this fact and apply these teachings. It is not anti-science in the least, but it approaches the human situation from a rather different perspective to either Western science or religion. That's one of the great things about it.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Jnana » Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:29 pm

jeeprs wrote:There's a profound difference between science and philosophy - but it is a difference is not visible to science, and as science is so prestigious in today's world, it is a difference which very few people will understand.

Besides, philosophy of science doesn't have a lot of impact on the 'work scientists actually do' - and maybe it doesn't need to have. But the point is, there are questions that are quite out-of-scope for science and the scientific method. The kinds of questions are those which philosophy, in a general sense, and the Buddhist teaching, in particular, consider.

I mean, consider the scientific response to 'suffering and the cause of suffering'. It would mainly consist of medical science, would it not? And what it can do to ameliorate the suffering associated with illness and injury is just amazing. There is simply no question about that and I would never doubt it. But there is suffering of a completely different order, isn't there? Such as the suffering caused by selfishness, by loneliness, by alienation, by the lack of relatedness to others. And there's plenty of that around. Now, what does science have to say about that? Very little, I suggest. But this is not to disparage science in the least. It is just a matter of knowing where it does and does not apply. It is precisely when science is said to have all the answers, or the only answers worth having, that it does start to become like a religion - the religion of scientism, which is both insidious and powerful in today's world.

As it happens, what I see in science attempting to grapple with these existential questions, is the attempt to medicalise such problems, which I don't think is very useful. (See this opinion piece).

On the other hand, Buddhist meditation offers a relatively simple and direct way of dealing with the problem at its root. Fortunately, science, or rather, some scientists, are starting to realize this fact and apply these teachings. It is not anti-science in the least, but it approaches the human situation from a rather different perspective to either Western science or religion. That's one of the great things about it.

Well said.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:22 pm

Yes, well said.

jeeprs wrote:I mean, consider the scientific response to 'suffering and the cause of suffering'. It would mainly consist of medical science, would it not? And what it can do to ameliorate the suffering associated with illness and injury is just amazing. There is simply no question about that and I would never doubt it. But there is suffering of a completely different order, isn't there? Such as the suffering caused by selfishness, by loneliness, by alienation, by the lack of relatedness to others. And there's plenty of that around. Now, what does science have to say about that? Very little, I suggest.

But let's not forget that psychology exists as a science (of sorts).
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Acchantika » Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:52 pm

Another "well said" jeeprs here, on all counts.

I also think your point that philosophy can inform science, while not contradicting Feynman's point, is very important. There are legitimate ways to criticise science without interfering with its operations or questioning its achievements. Falsifiaibilty, paradigms, Ockham's razor and so on are all examples of relatively recent philosophic contributions to science as a result of criticism, made well after "modern" science had been established, that have greatly improved its efficiency.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Wesley1982 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:28 pm

Is Science Just Another Religion?


It has to do with experimental testing and analyzing results in order to reach a conclusion about data or evidence. (Finding a testable hypothesis)
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby Challenge23 » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:53 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
But let's not forget that psychology exists as a science (of sorts).


True but psychology, like the rest of science, is a really awesome tool for particular things. If someone has serious bipolar disorder then medication(and therefore psychology) would be the best solution. However, if someone is basically sick of getting and loosing stuff there is no pill to fix that in such a way that it doesn't create new and more "interesting" problems.
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Re: Is Science Just Another Religion?

Postby dharmagoat » Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:06 am

Challenge23 wrote:If someone has serious bipolar disorder then medication (and therefore psychology) would be the best solution.

Psychological treatments include such things as psychotherapy and counselling. Psychiatry, being a medical discipline, is the one responsible for prescribing medication for mental health problems.
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