This is an interesting perspective from an Evolutionary Biologist. The emerging field of Evolutionary Religious Studies is fascinating too!
Science as a Religion that Worships Truth as its God
October 20, 2009
blog by David Sloan Wilson, Evolutionary Biologist
In short, the truth is regarded as sacred within science, more than within public life, with all the obedience commanded by the word sacred in religious life. Science can even be regarded as a religion that worships truth as its god. It might seem provocative to put it this way, but I find the comparison compelling and challenge my readers to show what's wrong with it.
Here are some insights that emerge from viewing science as a religion that worships truth as its god. First, being a scientist is not natural. We evolved to adopt beliefs when they are useful, not when then they are true, so being a scientist requires resisting temptation, just as religious believers must resist temptation to achieve the ideals of their faiths. Second, the ideals of science can only be achieved by an entire cultural system. Simply exhorting people to respect the truth is not good enough, just as exhorting people to do unto others isn't good enough. Third, science as practiced often falls short of the goals of science as idealized, just as religions as practiced fall short of the goals of religions as idealized.
The third point is especially important because it means that scientists must be vigilant about keeping their own house in order before preaching to others. Anyone familiar with science knows that it is a messy process, like making laws and sausages. If only it was as simple as hypothesis formation and testing leading straight to the truth! Often science is like a bloodhound having difficulty finding the scent or running off baying loudly in the wrong direction.
A special problem occurs when all scientists are biased in the same direction. Then there is no diversity of opinion that might cause them to disagree. Everyone knows that Darwin and his contemporaries were biased by the assumptions of Victorian culture, which they didn't know how to question but we can easily recognize with the passage of time. Everyone is prepared to admit that we are also biased by the assumptions of our own culture, but we seldom make a serious effort to examine and correct for them as part of the scientific process. We should.
The fallibility of science makes arrogance one of its sins and humility one of its virtues, just as for other religious faiths. Beware of scientific emperors. They might have no clothes and that's not a pretty sight.
Evolutionary Religious Studies
Symphony of Science – We Are All Connected
featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye
A beautiful song synthesized from words of great popular scientists. This song reminds me of the beauty of Religious Naturalism—achieving spiritual depth from meditating on Nature herself as understood by science, without resorting to beliefs in the supernatural.
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically
I think nature's imagination
Is so much greater than man's
She's never going to let us relax
We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature
I'm this guy standing on a planet
Really I'm just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There's billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We're made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned
I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??
(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)
There's this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other
And it's all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it's all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature
How do Religious Naturalists/Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? 宗教自然主義者/宗教人文主義者如何讀《聖經》及祈禱？
How do Religious Naturalists read the Bible and pray? God = Nature
How do Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? God = Love
I am turning from Christianity to Religious Naturalism and Religious Humanism. Naturalism believes that everything belongs to Nature as understood by science; Humanism believes that the final authority is in human. Both Naturalism and Humanism are non-theistic. The New Zealand Presbyterian theologian Lloyd Geering (whom our Progressive Christian Fellowship (PCF) is studying) points out that the term "God" is a symbol which has meaning only in the pre-scientific worldview: a personal highest being who has created and is taking care of the world, and loves human. Since Enlightenment, the Western worldview has drastically changed and now the Universe is understood to be impersonal, running according to physical laws. This causes the term "God" to lose its meaning for modern people.
I still go to Christian churches occasionally. Today, I go to my old church, an Anglican church. When the word "God" is uttered while reading the Bible or saying a prayer, I have difficulty in dealing with that word. Today, right during the worship, I figured out the following solution:
When a Religious Naturalist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Nature." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Naturalism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own feelings of praise, awe, and gratitude towards Nature. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship (a familiar mode of relationship since everyone's infancy) and worship (affirmation of worth).
When a Religious Humanist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Love" or "benevolence." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Humanism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own highest values and meaning of life. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship and worship. Christians often say that Jesus is "Son of God" or "God Incarnate." In fact, the core of Jesus is Love or benevolence. Jesus is really "Son of God' or "God Incarnate" in the sense that Jesus fully expresses Love in his life to the extent that Jesus is experienced as "Son of Love" or "Love Incarnate." "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16).
Which word to use, then? "Nature" or "Love"? Does this imply that Naturalism and Humanism are two conflicting theories, one worships Nature as God, the other worships Love as God? My present thought is that: In the realm of Nature, "God" symbolizes Nature; in the realm of human relationship, "God" symbolizes Love. I worship both Nature and Love.
American Humanist Association's "My Humanist Vision" Challenge: First Place Winner
This video explains very well the spirit and values of Humanism.
Received the following story from a humanist email list. Later, someone points out that this story might be some 20 years old. Anyway, the student's remark is so simple and so true:
"Most...religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell."
> HELL EXPLAINED BY CHEMISTRY STUDENT
> The following is an actual question given on a University of
> Washington chemistry midterm.
> The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor
> shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course,
> why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:
> Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic
> (absorbs heat)?
> Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using
> Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is
> compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the
> First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So
> we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and
> the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely
> assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore,
> no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell,
> let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
> Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their
> religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of
> these religions and since people do not belong to more than one
> religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and
> death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell
> to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of
> the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the
> temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of
> Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
> This gives two possibilities:
> 1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which
> souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will
> increase until all Hell breaks loose.
> 2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls
> in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell
> freezes over.
> So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa
> during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before
> I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with
> her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure
> that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary
> of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that
> it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore,
> extinct.......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of
> a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting
> 'Oh my God.'
> THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+.
Good Without God 《無神一樣做好人》
Many people in the West think that non-believers are ethically inferior to believers (usually Christians). This interesting book by the Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg M. Epstein replies to this misconception.
Good Without God
In "Good Without God," discover how Humanism offers comfort and hope that affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment in which we can aspire to the greater good of all.
National Secular Service Day 「國家俗世服務日」
Some, especially those in the West, might think that non-believers tend to be morally inferior to believers (usually means Christians in the West). The National Secular Service Day might be a good reply to this misconception.
National Secular Service Day
As you may know, Sunday, October 18, 2009 marks the first ever National Secular Service Day. On and around this date, nonreligious organizations all over America (and beyond) will unite in performing acts of community service.
The event is reported by the Humanist Network News of the American Humanist Association:
National Secular Service Day Seeks to Unite Nonbelievers in Public Service
Oct. 14, 2009
Our Transylvanian Heritage (YouTube)
As I have returned shortly from the ICUU Council Meeting in the Unitarian Centre of Koloszar in early September, I was very excited when I found this video in a UU forum "Faith of the Free". The video brings back good memories of my visit to the root of the Unitarian movement in Transylvania, a sort of pilgrimage. The forum host says (which I totally agree):
Not that I can understand anything that is being said in this video, but I still recommend it (at least for the video imagery). This YouTube offers a rare glimpse of the Unitarian church in Koloszvar, (apparently) on the occasion of the 440th anniversary of its founding last year. Included are the church, both exterior and interior, as well as portraits of founder Bishop Francis David and of other people and events in the history of the Untiarian Church in Transylvania. This video runs about 10 minutes, but again is highly recommended for anyone wanting to have a "little better feel" for our Unitarian roots in Europe.
Then I found a related video (slide show actually) of another Unitarian church with very beautiful background music:
Csókfalva - Erdélyi Unitárius Egyház Zsinata - 2005
Alex from UUHK