Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

Category: faith (page 1 of 3)

Religion is a Fourier Transform

Fourteen statements to help people see what religion is or can be

If you just want to see the fourteen statements, click here, otherwise, read on.

14

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Judging by Labels

I would be willing to be called theist in the sense described in this previous post, and I would like to encourage others to try to understand what that means. I hope that this will help other people to find for themselves a better sense of their own role and possibilities. I also affirm the right of atheism to express itself in the world, with full rights of citizenship, and to earn all the respect it can by motivating good lives and work for peace, justice, science and all the arts.

This post is a continuation of a theme I addressed in a piece on fascism on August 23rd.  You may ask, why did I include a piece on fascism in a blog about science and religion? It is because I think I can detect totalitarian thinking in some of the material published and positions advocated in this area. I already discussed one issue related to this, namely the attempt to suppress dissent by redefining the very words that other people have adopted:

[Changing the meaning of words]

In this post I will expand on another issue: assessing people not by how they behave but by how you label them.

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Changing the meaning of words

[image: text from 1984 by George Orwell]

The most effective way to gag an opponent is to refuse to listen to him/her, and then, within your own community, to redefine the words he/she uses. George Orwell illustrated this with great perception and power in his book, 1984, shown above.

No one is currently trying to say things like “freedom is slavery”, but a contemporary example of an attempt to change the meaning of an important word is the attempt to redefine the word “faith” to mean “belief without reasonable evidential basis”. In other words to define it as delusion or wishful thinking. I mention this here because I have now seen that nasty redefinition taken for granted not just in populist rhetoric but even in some academic philosophy. This is a clear example of a word with a perfectly good etymological basis in trust and loyalty, and which certainly does not and never did mean assent without a reasonable case based in evidence, now being forced into a very different meaning. I say very different, because it makes the difference between sense and nonsense.

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“The God hypothesis” and “this human slave”

Last week I posted a thought in which music in major and minor keys is used as an analogy for ways of thinking or of seeing. I did not develop the analogy; just hinted at it. Now I will develop it a little.

The sort of activity that tries to “turn minor chords into major chords” in this analogy is any activity where a naturalistic or scientistic world-view is imposed on the very framework of a discussion, so that a view which does not accept that world-view is prevented from even being expressed in its own terms. Here I am using the word ‘scientistic’ not for science, but for a philosophical position which puts analysis and dissection into low-level physical causes at the centre of all discourse, as if that were the most important thing, or only way of getting at truth.

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Unfamiliar music

Imagine someone whose experience of music has been limited: they have only ever heard tunes and harmonies that are in a major key. Now suppose they come across some music in a minor key. They might, perhaps, find it difficult to like at first. They might even feel that it is not proper music, or that it is out of tune, or discordant. What attitude might such a person adopt? They will notice that other people like this other music, so they might decide that the problem is with their own hearing. Or they might decide that their own hearing is fine and the minor key is simply unmusical. It would be a pity if they concluded that, but it makes some sort of sense. But what would be oppressive, what would be objectionable, would be the claim that the quality of music in a minor key can only be properly assessed by first making a ‘correction’ of each minor chord or interval into a major counterpart.

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But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

 

by R.S. Thomas, from the collection Counterpoint, 1990

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Faith and Reason

You can find much discussion of the concept of faith in the talks and books in the resources section of this blog. Here I will say some more about the roles of faith and reason.

Reason is about being receptive to persuasion, and honest enough to follow a sequence of steps where the connections can be shown and seen.

Faith is essentially a kind of willingness combined with a sense of value.

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The Zygon Inversion

[The above image is from the BBC website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06phcqv]

This week I watched the latest episode of Dr Who. It was an episode called “The Zygon Inversion”, written by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness. The climactic scene was thought-provoking, and I am quoting it here. Dr Who is a science fiction series, so it is loosely connected to the science theme of this blog, and I will explain the connection to faith at the end.

The scene is very well played by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Capaldi is in the role of the Doctor, trying to persuade the alien (Zygon) called “Bonnie” (played by Jenna Coleman) not to launch on all-out attack on the human population. In the middle we hear briefly from a human character called Kate (Jemma Redgrave).

Here is the script, picking up with the Doctor speaking: Continue reading

A short introduction to what may well be

I have not posted for a couple of weeks because I was ruminating on what to say. There are a variety of issues I could write about, but I decided in the end to present, in an informal way, some general thoughts on theism, world-views, atheism, faith, science and religion.

What this blog advocates is a broadly positive stance on both science and that aspect of human life which is about refusing materialism and scientism, in favour of a richer notion of what may be said to be true and real. That lengthy expression refers, broadly, to what has often been called “religion”, but I have been cautious about the use of that word in this blog, because of all the obvious dangers and abuses that often accompany religion. I think that there is both good religion and bad religion, and in the end what I want to do in the blog is not about religion as such, but about encouraging one another to realize and live out the most complete expression of what human life is, whatever that may be.

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Talking about faith and science

This post is mainly to announce that I have now added a further talk to the resources section. You can find it here:

http://grievingturtle.com/resources/talks/faith-and-science-hbc-oxford-0915/

Here is an extract from the talk:

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