For the past couple years I attended some of the Philosophy Club meetings at our local college when I can. It's interesting and a nice break interacting with college students. The last meeting provided me with some food for thought and an excuse to work on these ideas some more. Any feedback would be appreciated.
“Do Religions Start Wars?”
To me, it's an empty question because it defies resolution since everyone works with their own specific definitions.
The conversation then drifted into the notion that Religion & Science are both simply faith systems of a different flavor. The following discussion seemed surprisingly superficial to me, I stayed out of it since it was lively discussion, simply listening, keep my mouth shut for the most part. Still it's been on my mind
May I ask you to consider some observations regarding the Philosophy Club’s last discussion and to challenge a little.
I couldn’t help but feel that it’s a futile question that defies resolution because everyone works outward from their own specific definitions, and our discussions devolved into a parade of “sure, but …,” talk for talk, little that was constructive enough for anyone to do anything with.
Then the conversation drifted into the notion that Religion & Science are both simply faith systems of a different flavor.
That discussion remained surprisingly superficial while the core of the matter was avoided all together.
You may ask: What ‘core of the matter’? Appreciating our human consciousness and its limits.
As I’ve been chewing on that meeting I got to thinking about an off hand comment one of your club officers made about me possibly actually leading one of the meeting discussions.
I’ve been thinking about it and would like to ask for your consider - please invite me to speak at one of next year’s FLC Philosophy Club meetings.
I believe there’s plenty here to fill an hour and a half with challenging and constructive (timely and relevant) discussion.
Below I offer an outline of the substance of such a talk.
Thank you for your consideration,
Outline for a presentation to the FLC Philosophy Club meeting.
“Religion & Science, are both simply Faith Systems of a Different Flavor?”
I would suggest that the most constructive way to come at this challenge is from an Evolutionary perspective, one that begins with a better appreciation our own minds, the wellspring of all our thoughts.
“Who Are You?”
If you asked me that, I’d respond: “Most fundamentally I am an evolved biological sensing creature. My mind is the product of my body, and my body is a product of this Earth’s Evolution. A self-aware filament in Earth’s ongoing Evolution.”
Why is that important?
Because only from an Evolutionary Perspective can we fully appreciate human consciousness in a way that truly helps us recognize the contrast between the pursuit of Science and faith in Religion.
The key insight is a deep time appreciation for the Human Mind ~ Physical Reality divide.
Physical Reality is the physical world of atoms, molecules, universal laws of physics, biology and Earth’s laws of nature. It is Earth’s dance between geology and biology and time and Earth's evolving creatures.
Human “Mindscape" is all that goes on inside of our minds. The landscape of our thoughts and desires and impulses along with those various voices and personalities who inhabit our thoughts and Being. The ineffable notions that our hands can turn into physical reality that changes our planet.
The me, myself and I, and all that unfolds within the thoughts just beyond the biological sparks and chemical cascades unfolding within our physical bodies and brains as they navigate their environments.
Once we have a visceral appreciation for the fact that my physical body creates my mind, it becomes clear that both science and religion are products of our minds dealing with the physical reality each of us is imbedded within. Two projects with two very different natures.
Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we ought to still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape and the bubble our personal ego creates.
Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.
What’s the point?
Religions, science, same as political beliefs, heaven, hell, mathematics, art, music, even God, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.
That's not to say they are the same thing, they are not! Though I think they're both valid human endeavors, still fundamentally, qualitatively different.
Religion deals with the inside of our minds, passion and souls, Science does its best to objectively understand the physical world beyond all that, doing its best to eliminate ego and bias from its deliberations.
From this starting point a much more constructive conversation about the many substantive contrasts between religion and science becomes possible.
From there I’d move onto tackling the Faith question with an invitation for critique that would go something like the following copy of a flier I’ve offered up at a couple Philosophy Club meetings already.
With a half year or more to think on it, it will be more refined and I’d happily share my notes ahead of time.
I’m looking for serious critique and feedback. This past December I finally had a teaser, but it begged a question that still hasn’t received a response, despite my further inquiries.
So, I’m hoping someone might be willing to step up and give it a shot.
I was told:
“Your essays consistently make conceptual confusions; the ego-God piece is a good example of this confusion.
In that piece, you waffle back and forth between having the word ‘God’ refer to a heavenly creator and having it refer to the CONCEPT of such a creator.
Example: frogs are amphibians, but the concept of ‘frog’ is not an amphibian. It’s a concept that we use to think about the world.” *
Now you confuse me.
Where specifically do you see this waffling?
I started out with “God” in scare quotes, the first sentence reads:
Who is “God” but a creation of our unique complex human minds dealing with our day to days?
Later I write:
Humans are the product of our Earth, God is the product of our human mind.
It’s why our conceptions of God always wind up being driven by our own Egos, not by any outside force.
Nothing wrong with that, if only we could bring ourselves to explicitly recognize it for what it is, our mind striving to reconcile itself with the unknowable.
The critique continued:
“It’s obvious that humans created the CONCEPT of God,
and equally obvious that humans couldn’t create the BEING God. But your essay confuses the two.”
I found this shocking. After getting my bearing I asked:
I know of Beings and I know of Things and both can be observed in one way or another. If they can’t, I'm told they are figments of my imagination.
How can something that’s never been observed on any level (beyond the human heart & mind) be categorized as a BEING of physical reality? Even the super mystery of “Dark Matter” has evidence pointing at its existence.
How do philosophers justify referring to something as a BEING if it can’t be demonstrated in any way beyond imaginative intellectual arguments and human desire?
How does an Assumption get transubstantiated into a BEING?
* As for that analogy, it brings this discussion back to my essays which strive to highlight the need to explicitly appreciate the “Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide.” (Though that’s a different discussion I’m hoping to have with the curious.)
I’m hoping for someone who's willing to explain what they think I’m missing here?
My response reads:
“Thanks for this offer. The Philosophy Club is student-run, and, as such, the students select all of the topics and speakers. I’ll be sure to raise your offer with them when we gather in the fall to set the schedule for the academic year.
I posted the above at CenterForInquiry an online forum I'm a regular participant at. I'm sharing the following comment since it gave me a chance to further explore these ideas.
“From this starting point, a much more constructive conversation about the differences between religion and science becomes possible.”
I doubt that.
Religions are exclusive belief systems, each claiming divine truth.
Therefore there can never be consensus
and if religions exist side by side it is due to “tolerance” not consensus.
Differences are bound to create problems of “tolerant acceptance”.
Okay, sure, religions are “exclusive belief systems.” but that’s beside the point here.
Sure religions simply tolerate other religions and conversions are rare, but that’s irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make.
Where did I bring up consensus?
Consensus on what specifically?
Religion deals with the inside of our minds, hearts and souls,
Science does its best to objectively understand the physical world beyond all that, doing its best to eliminate ego and bias from of its deliberations…
Humans participate in both endeavors, scientific, religious, that’s simply how it is.
The challenge is to understand on a human level what makes science so uniquely different from religion and other human endeavors arts, music, etc.
Tackling that requires understanding that science is a set of rules dedicated to understanding the physical world around us, the world we can measure, record and study as objectively (that is, honestly) as possible.
From there, it’s time to consider the so-called Brain/Mind Problem and the self evident fact that our human mind is qualitatively unique. Our minds are the product of physical biological processes, yet they are one step beyond. Which is why the problem of where our internal voices come from, and who they “really are”, is important.
“Who am I?” It has teased the human intellect since we became self aware. It was our human mind that invented Gods, to answer those nagging questions and placate fears.
It’s teased me all my days. After decades of chewing on it, a few years back I had a little epiphany, (that is a thought that makes a physical and lasting impact on my being and awareness.) An awareness that my thoughts are the product of my body and brain, interacting with this physical world that surrounds me, yet that was all separate from my mind. As for my mind my consciousness, that was a mere fleeting spark.
From there it was easy to formulate: “Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide” and I believe the insight is a first base prerequisite for better understanding human consciousness and why we behave as we do.
All this matters because fact is, all we think and know gets processed through our individual body/brain and mind. Ergo even God is a product of our mind, driven by our body and soul.
As is science. That’s important to come to grips with. Now we’re in a better position to think about the difference between science and religion, which is all I’m commenting on. Religion is dedicated to people and our dreams and stories, that’s why I say religion is all about our human mindscape.
Whereas, what makes science different is that science is a universal set of rule for objectively studying physical reality as objectively and honestly as possible. These rules and the language of science is so clear that anyone who takes the time and effort to learn the rules and methods and language of science can contribute from anywhere in the world.
I could see that, still the dam breaking change that needs to be realized is that our Gods came from within the human creature! God does not come down from Out There, where ever that might be. God is a byproduct of our own human evolution.
Once we, collectively process that, all sorts of constructive changes would be possible.