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Science

Discussion: Science and Religion

In the relatively scientifically-oriented U.S. there remains a delicate balance between religious influence and scientific possibilities. In what arenas do science and religion clash, and how should the country proceed, culturally, ethically, and legislatively? Discuss.

“It is rare that someone becomes absorbed in this [foreign] science without renouncing religion and letting go the reins of piety within him.” — Al-Ghazali, Persia (1058-1111)

Timeline: The West and The Ottoman Empire 1515-1923

What are the killer apps?

  1. The second part of this question of course goes beyond the religion question. Personally I have no room for religion, but my ethics and values are definitely challenged by developments in science (not to mention technology specifically). Typically these issues are problematized by the introduction of the economic (capitalist) element, which seems to dissolve all other concerns. How to proceed? Hard to say. Just don’t forget the ethics.

    • This is a duplicate response, which was added near the bottom. But since maybe new readers won’t read the whole page, I add it again near the apparent top of this sandbox…

      Does anybody, like Niall, ever bother to read this? Or is this just a sandbox for children to be ignored, to amuse themselves and perhaps each other? I should like a real discussion with Niall, if anyone is listening.

      The real problem is a misunderstanding of religion and a gross irreverence for truth. Truth is ALWAYS a matter of reason, facts, and evidence, upon which faith is based. Faith is never blind, except by the declaration of frauds and liars. Faith is simply trust in something, based on some basis, whether true or false. Atheists have just as much faith as anybody else. To assert that God caused the Big Bang is a ridiculous claim to make based on nothing but presumption. Which God? The God of the Bible? Hardly. That God says what he created in Genesis, and to pretend otherwise is to be false to Jesus and to invent fantasy based on imagination. Jesus believed in the God of the Bible, who created Adam from dirt, and then created Eve from Adam’s rib. This was what Jesus believed, and EXACTLY what he died for, to pay the price of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). If that story was blatant mythology, as all of scientific knowledge to date suggests, then Jesus was wrong and died to fix a sin that never happened. It is easy to prove the non-existence of the God of the Bible, if only you show respect for the truth of what it says. Jesus was probably the greatest champion of truth that ever lived. He would have been an Atheist in today’s world, and he would have HATED Christianity, especially American Fundamentalist Christianity who, like the Pharisees (Luke 16:14), are lovers of money. The TeaParty say, No new taxes?! What a fraud they preach! You cannot serve God and Mammon, remember? Luke 16:13! If Jesus == Truth, and Jesus == God, then God == Truth. You cannot serve Truth and Money, and Nobody is serving Truth. Jesus was a Communist based on his teachings and the way the earliest disciples tried to live (Acts 2:44). Obviously that didn’t last because the Holy Spirit never came and filled their hearts with love and reverence for truth. The Holy Spirit’s other name was the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). There is no God or Holy Spirit of Truth. Humans are greedy by nature, and this is not a sin, but the fact of all life. The ONLY way humanity can ever arise above this debacle of fighting over money behind a pretense of conflicting and evil pretensions of God, is for EVERYONE to receive a secular education that teaches respect and reverence for the truth. But, like communism, the chances of that succeeding are near zero. I could write many books about this, and base it all on the Bible and words of Jesus, but nobody would care because it would seem to insult their fraud and ability to defraud others and get rich. Money is the God of everyone, and truth is trampled by all. Civilization is possible, but not until more people figure out that truth must always be based on reasonable evidence that can be tested and cross-referenced. The difference between truth and opinion is evidence. If you can’t prove it, it is only an opinion. Claiming some imagination of God caused the Big Bang is just the kind of nonsense that will continue until another Big Bang puts an end to the pomp and bullshit of so-called civilization. Niall, where are you?! :) The North Koreans are just another crazy anti-truth based religion in the mix, and who knows where their insanity may lead humanity. Wisdom builds her house, but Folly tears it down in a moment. It is cheaper to destroy than to build, and money rules everything.

      good luck!

    • Why make this complicated….science and religion are totally noncompatible and the proof is on those who say otherwise.

      • Science without religion AND religion without science IS the path to destruction. And as long as you give energy to either of those mentalities, you are not just yielding, but FEEDING the destructive forces that have undermined society and Mother Earth and humanity and knowledge.
        The knowledge of the heart is extremely powerful: you can use it to destroy a society and progress as a perceived threat to your ideals, or you can push for growth that addresses the reticence, soothes the negativity, and affronts the greed and fear.

    • Science and Religion are totally orthogonal, because science is based on the rational thinking, while religion by its definition is always based on a dogmatic system of believes. Since humans are a mixture of both materialistic or rational part and an idealistic or spiritual part, they are always trying to combine both materialistic or rational and spiritual or ideal parts.
      It is very fundamental split, which shows that you can not rationally prove or dis-prove the existence of God, or use Religion to find answers to your everyday material existence or use it for justification of Wars, the way ex-president Bush (43) did in case of Iraq war.

  2. Below are interesting quotes to ponder on this matter:
    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
    Albert Einstein

    “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”
    Thomas Paine

    Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
    Thomas Paine

    Reason or logic, although not perfect, appears to be the best ability that we can leverage under most circumstances. But there are surely times when faith and hope comfort us or get us out of a hole. Religion and faith can be compatible if we choose to do so.

    • Einstein obviously didn’t win the Nobel prize based on that quote or studies on such quote.

      Also, he was force fed re1igion starting at a young age, so that is why he can’t disassociate what’s being indoctrinated into him with the ideas he came up with later on in his life. If you think if he wasn’t taught re1igion on a regular basic, he would have expanded and incorporated or espouse such views during his discoveries?

      • I don’t think that Nisar inferred that Einstein won the Nobel because of that quote. I’m decently sure that he quoted Einstein because he was a genius.

        I find it somewhat schizophrenic to call him a genius worthy of a Nobel on one hand and on the other a retard who couldn’t help himself because he was raised in a religious family or culture, whatever the case may have been. The same man who came up with e=mc2 also said some pretty extraordinary things about religion and God. He could have, like others, turned his back on his “childhood religion,” but he didn’t.

  3. Somehow Ferguson manages to work into this section the “example” of science-embracing Israel surrounded by Muslim enemies of science (Including Saudi Arabia–which Ferguson says is a “threat” to Israel—this man is supposedly an expert in geopolitics)as an example of the enduring legacy of the Islamic rejection of science. I will only pint out that he conveniently skipped over 19th century Ottoman endeavors which included the embrace of Western science and capitalism. Ferguson has no shame.

    • So much misinformation. How was Baron R0thschild an enemy of the 0ttoman Su1tans that the British empire had to sign the Balfour declaration with him in order to get him on their side?

      1srae1 being sole nuclear ‘power’??? Implication seems to be that it is nuclear power plant.

      1ran wants the ultimate WMD? According to whom? Netanyahoo and the neoc0ns?

      His 1slamoph0bic wife must be constantly whispering anti mus1im views into his ears, even though her experience as a mus1im consists only of being a child in a village.

      • Thanks!! I am glad I am not the only one appalled by this. Propaganda in the guise of science is an insult to intelligence of vieres. Is anyone at PBS listening?

    • Saudi Arabia was one of the few countries that didn’t attack Israel. Niall is extremely exclusive and Islamophobic, he has a a great love for the West and sees every other civilization as the REST to be lower or unimportant. He is one person who continually supports the Iraq War even though the Iraqi people suffer not only from death but from uranium (birth defects such as babies born with seven legs)He also forgets that the Persian Empire who were lovers of science and the Islamic Golden Age, the Arabs that created Algebra and other mathematics. The flush toilet and two story houses, indoor plumbing created in the west gulf country Bahrain. The only Arab countries to attack Israel head on was the Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The other countries came later because of exposed reality of how their Arab brother were being treated.

  4. Legislatively I believe state and religion should be kept separate. Science should be emphasized along with ethics and morality.

  5. Shame on you, Dr. Fergusson and shame on you OPB! Is US scientifically minded? If it were the viewers would be put off by this thinly veiled brianwashing and outright propaganda — I have not seen anything so aggregious since I left the USSR 20+ years ago. An educated person and Harvard professor should know better. Only an assumption that your viewers are very ignorant could prompt to cherry-pick the facts and mix in half-truths to spin the catchy but entirely unscientific yarn. The sad part is that the viewer are apparently happy with what they see… But being scientifically-minded would imply respect of for facts, including those that contradict your story line, right? Such as burning heretics in enlightened Europe…

    • I left USSR more than 30 years ago and I could not agree more with your comments about current state of US propaganda and very stupid mass media consumers who are chewing on all this staff without any critical thinking. Examples are too many to mention.
      iPads are not a substitute for critical minds, which are mostly and sadly heavily brainwashed here.

  6. God is a metaphor for that aspect of reality that man does not or maybe cannot know and/or over which he has no control. Not settled with this reality man invents religion to try and know the unknowable and control the uncontrolable if only he knew and could perform the right prayers and sacrifices and rituals. This is a primitive reaction to the reality that can only be discerend as much as it can be through reason. The only so called religious teacher who taught the superiority of reason over prayer, sacrifice, and ritual was Buddha. However, even here there evolved a religion of Buddhism that veered from this fundamental precept. The followers even of great spiritual(meaning inspirational)teachers create religion. We know now that there were many interpretions of Jesus in the first century of the common era. Those who would be called Christians turned the Teachings of Jesus into the Teachings about Jesus and so missed the heart of what he taught-the vision of a world he called the Kingdom of God in which human beings lived together cooperatively not competively, with faith or trust in life not in belief in the unbelievable; hope in the promise that such a world is possible; and love-forgiveness, charity and compassion in a community that shares wealth. Jesus admonished only two groups of people; he chastized the wealthy for putting their wealth above other people; and he condemned the self righteous for putting themselves over other people. Again not one of the six virtues of Niall Ferguson.

  7. Thank you Niall for an enlightening and provocative series at a crucial time in our world history! I have just finished teaching a course in Islam at a US university and I find the insights on Science, Religion and the Ottoman Empire consistent with my own reading of history and religion and current scholarship. Obviously there is a danger in simplifying and generalizing history and religion in a relatively short TV presentation. To be fair to Islam, there is obviously a big difference between Islam being a center of study, science and medicine in Baghdad’s house of Wisdom in the 8th century and that of the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 1600′s. Ferguson states that difference clearly. Those who see religion as an enemy of science and knowledge are unhappy with the series while devout Muslims may take offense at some of the statements. I encourage readers to search out President Obama’s remarks in Cairo in June of 2009 in describing the complementary nature of religion and science at an important anniversary of Al Ahazar (religious) and the University of Cairo (secular). This is definitely a key challenge to peace in our world today.

    • Ferguson also left out Islam and the Ottoman Empire embracing the West in the 19th, as apparently do you. As for Ferguson’s lazy scholarship: on another program, he blamed the current sub-prime crisis on the New Deal (he filed making this claim while driving around a low-income African American neighborhood with a white driver.) Ferguson also supports the return of version of the British Empire ( life was better for the colonized under the British, you know). Those really want to understand Islam should avoid Ferguson (and, obviously, Tom McCloskey, and read Esposito, Armstrong, Gelvin, Cleveland, Akbar, and Juan Cole.

  8. Before all thse comments. Can any one give a defination of what is science. I am a scientist and my understanding is that they are in different domain, they talking about different things, They using different method. Everything in science domain, you must prove it with scientific envidence. If you can not prove it it does not belong to science for example religion is a faith do not need to be proved.

    • A fair point, but at the same time any of these questions assume a certain understanding of their terms. Perhaps as a scientist you can provide the definition. Dictionary.com says:
      a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws

      I tend to agree that science and religion operate differently, but I don’t know if they’re in different domains. They both try to describe the world and they often do so in ways that are incompatible, and these understandings of the world are, in the case of religion, prescriptive of certain behaviors, and in the case of science at least suggestive of certain behaviors.

      Yet at the same time many scientists are religious, and plenty of religious people believe in the findings of science, so it’s a strange balance, which I guess can make it an interesting question.

      I feel like a major place where science and religion clash (aside from evolution and stuff like that, describing what’s passed) today is in the medical domains… science, particularly motivated by money, seems to always be driven by an attitude of “if I can I will,” ignoring precautions and taboos that may or may not be religiously grounded…

  9. I am offended that Mr. Ferguson described Moslems as a violent religion without modification. This sort of categorical atetement leads to gross misunderstanding, and, off-handed and unquestioning as it was, leaves this very un-nuanced description of an entire, complex religion sound as if it is the only way to view Islam. Shamefully shoddy talk.

    • To have a religious conviction, one must have a thick skin. There will always be controversy about one group or the other, I live with it and I understand.

      • That is known, however, he is exclusive he onyl talks about the West being great. And that the whole of Islam and Muslim Empires is nowhere near the great achievements of the West. This has to with the geopolitics, banking/central system, and colonization. If the West never invaded and conquered, controlled countries and governments the Middle East would be a lot different Countries like Iran are limited to improve because of the worldwide sanctions/blockade the U.S. implicated. One cannot get medicine or trade with another country. So the economy can’t improve or get better. It isn’t religion, because many countries all over the world where religion isn’t center also aren’t succeeding. So blaming it on religion is a joke.

      • What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity’s basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kin … Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world–and I can identify with them easily–succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the West–a world with which I can identify with the same ease–nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.
        —Orhan Pamuk

  10. Religion is a culture of faith; Science is a culture of doubt. – Richard Feynman

  11. Interesting Ideas in your program for sure, and I enjoyed your reading of history, but try to remember that Thomas Edison, whom you I believe referred to as the the king of alternating current actually pioneered the use of direct current and it was Nicoli Tesla who invented alternating current. Tesla helped implemented the first long distance transmission of power from Niagara Falls to Buffalo New York and to my knowledge it was alternating current that was used at worlds fairs. I might however be wrong or missed the point of what you were saying. Also I was surprised to see my hometown of Springfield, Missouri featured on the program. As a student of history myself I too see optimism in the future, and my view is that a ever changing balance of the killer apps you talk about stimulate growth and thought within individuals and nations as a whole. The Enlightenment and rediscovery of science, the work ethic you attribute to religion, religion itself, the state and a million other things must remain in balance. A tendency towards favoring any one of these things though I feel causes imbalance. A competitive atmosphere between them causes growth. A tendency towards favoring one “app” or religion culture or way of thinking, leads to radicalism which I feel should be avoided.

  12. There doesn’t have to be a conflict between religion and science. The universe was created by the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, but God caused this scientific process, and all scientific processes, to take place.

    • Does anybody, like Niall, ever bother to read this? Or is this just a sandbox for children to be ignored, to amuse themselves and perhaps each other? I should like a real discussion with Niall, if anyone is listening.

      The real problem is a misunderstanding of religion and a gross irreverence for truth. Truth is ALWAYS a matter of reason, facts, and evidence, upon which faith is based. Faith is never blind, except by the declaration of frauds and liars. Faith is simply trust in something, based on some basis, whether true or false. Atheists have just as much faith as anybody else. To assert that God caused the Big Bang is a ridiculous claim to make based on nothing but presumption. Which God? The God of the Bible? Hardly. That God says what he created in Genesis, and to pretend otherwise is to be false to Jesus and to invent fantasy based on imagination. Jesus believed in the God of the Bible, who created Adam from dirt, and then created Eve from Adam’s rib. This was what Jesus believed, and EXACTLY what he died for, to pay the price of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). If that story was blatant mythology, as all of scientific knowledge to date suggests, then Jesus was wrong and died to fix a sin that never happened. It is easy to prove the non-existence of the God of the Bible, if only you show respect for the truth of what it says. Jesus was probably the greatest champion of truth that ever lived. He would have been an Atheist in today’s world, and he would have HATED Christianity, especially American Fundamentalist Christianity who, like the Pharisees (Luke 16:14), are lovers of money. The TeaParty say, No new taxes?! What a fraud they preach! You cannot serve God and Mammon, remember? Luke 16:13! If Jesus == Truth, and Jesus == God, then God == Truth. You cannot serve Truth and Money, and Nobody is serving Truth. Jesus was a Communist based on his teachings and the way the earliest disciples tried to live (Acts 2:44). Obviously that didn’t last because the Holy Spirit never came and filled their hearts with love and reverence for truth. The Holy Spirit’s other name was the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). There is no God or Holy Spirit of Truth. Humans are greedy by nature, and this is not a sin, but the fact of all life. The ONLY way humanity can ever arise above this debacle of fighting over money behind a pretense of conflicting and evil pretensions of God, is for EVERYONE to receive a secular education that teaches respect and reverence for the truth. But, like communism, the chances of that succeeding are near zero. I could write many books about this, and base it all on the Bible and words of Jesus, but nobody would care because it would seem to insult their fraud and ability to defraud others and get rich. Money is the God of everyone, and truth is trampled by all. Civilization is possible, but not until more people figure out that truth must always be based on reasonable evidence that can be tested and cross-referenced. The difference between truth and opinion is evidence. If you can’t prove it, it is only an opinion. Claiming some imagination of God caused the Big Bang is just the kind of nonsense that will continue until another Big Bang puts an end to the pomp and bullshit of so-called civilization. Niall, where are you?! :) The North Koreans are just another crazy anti-truth based religion in the mix, and who knows where their insanity may lead humanity. Wisdom builds her house, but Folly tears it down in a moment. It is cheaper to destroy than to build, and money rules everything.

      good luck!

  13. As a science educator and Christian the posted comments do seem to expose the continuing uncertainty and tension between both sides of the science versus religion quagmire. My own personal take on this is that, as usual, extremist from both sides have so polarized the debate as to make civil discourse difficult. Here I am talking about the young earth creationists (YEC), and the staunch materialists. Both sides appear to me to be up to their necks in their own brand of unyielding, dogmatism.

    For those of you trying to find a little clarity in these issues, I would suggest a small book by the UK mathematician John Lennox. It is entitled: God’s Undertaker (Has Science Buried God).

    Lennox is neither a God Hater, nor someone who believes the earth is merely ten thousand years old. Thus, he may be in a better position to weigh the evidence than those with an agenda to humiliate, censor, or evangelize the infidels who seem to threaten their personal worldview.

  14. The Protestant work ethic has some problems he failed to mention. They don;t believe in paying a fair wage, they think its acceptable to pay women half as much as men for the same job, and they think its OK to deny work to people who are not members of their faith, or belong to their ethnic group or race. They also have no problem with expecting people to work six days a week in excess of 40 hrs a week with no overtime pay.
    We Celts have always had a work ethic without the elitism and inequalities. It was Calvin who preached that God favors the rich that gave the mercantile classes the excuse they needed to discriminate.

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