Post No.: 0012
As a loose follow-on from Post No.: 0007 about the scientific method and the value of science, the scientific method is the best way to determine objective facts and truths – but science cannot answer all of the types of questions people want and need answering to function as humans in a civilised world. There are scientific reasons for understanding there are limits to science, and therefore limits to secularism. At a certain level too, human beings also cannot fully embrace the scientific perspective/worldview – humans are hardly perfectly rational creatures after all.
Science is the tool for answering ‘how’ things work but not ‘why’ (as in questions involving purpose or meaning rather than just mechanistic causes-and-effects). From a scientific perspective, those sorts of questions are meaningless because there is no objective ‘why’ – things just ‘are’, with no guiding higher intelligence that designed it to be this way or any intentional teleology (end goal); things just happen. Yet human beings still like to ask ‘why’ questions – an explanation seems incomplete without ‘why’ answers involving purpose or meaning.
The cognitive mechanisms that make religious beliefs natural and attractive (such as seeing intentionality in the world (‘promiscuous teleology’) and reasoning about intentionality (‘theory of mind’) – two innate human cognitive tendencies that make ‘why’ questions and the assumption that all phenomena were designed and made for a purpose irresistible to humans) play an essential (and arguably healthy) part of human psychology. Theory of mind and understanding other living organisms as having intentions is critically useful for our survival in the social world but this intuition over-fires when applied to the natural world – leading us to see natural events as intentional, as having some kind of premeditated goal or ‘higher purpose’, too.
We seek for and claim to see reasons in the world even though we can stand back and realise and accept there are no objective reasons; we can rationally understand there is no purpose or intentionality but we still feel something – even many atheists still feel they must perform certain superstitious rituals otherwise something won’t feel right or comfortable with the world. We are creatures with emotions that matter to our furry core being. There is no evidence of an immaterial soul that is free from the deterministic laws of physics (or the probabilistic nature of some quantum mechanical processes) in science yet even most atheists cling onto the notion of us having ‘free will’. So even when science strongly and unambiguously points towards a conclusion – even the sternest supporters of science don’t always want to accept all the implications of the evidence, and arguably in some cases it’s not psychologically healthy to either, at least on a day-to-day basis.
There is no ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in science at a fundamental level of inspection – just bits of matter strictly obeying the laws of physics. But whether it’s a product or over-firing by-product of human evolution, whether it’s rational or irrational – seeking meaning is arguably an intrinsic part of being human thus humans cannot deny their human-level interpretations of the perceived world, for being human. Our ‘system one’ (or fast, automatic, effortless subconscious or unconscious) intuitions and ‘hot cognition’ (or cognition coloured by emotions) prefer ‘why’ explanations rather than proper, cold, dispassionate scientific explanations (e.g. we often explain events with ‘it happened for a reason’ or ‘it was meant to be’). Children naturally seek ‘why’ answers, and tend not to accept ‘there is no why’ as the answer!
So science can answer naturalistic questions, and then religious or quasi-religious beliefs, or certainly non-empirically verifiable or non-objective beliefs, are used to try to answer existential ‘why’ questions. Where science can answer a question then science is the right tool to use, but where it cannot then other methods must be used – that is to say that science should override religious, superstitious or other religious-type approaches and explanations where it can (our beliefs, even if subjective, must not contradict the knowable and known empirically-verified facts and probabilities) but that will still leave some questions, such as purpose and meaning questions, unanswered.
Furrywisepuppy primarily advocates scientific endeavours but is wise enough to understand that not all important questions can be answered via science, so Furrywisepuppy is not against those who follow a religion. After all, as I hope you’ll realise – even though not everybody in the world follows a religion formally, we virtually all use and hold various religious-type (as in non-objective, non-empirically verifiable) beliefs. Those relatively few who don’t, stand out as being ‘not quite seemingly human (or dog)’. Woof!
This is just the beginning of this fascinating topic that I believe everyone in the world should study (even though I have no empirical reason to believe so(!) It’s just a feeling.) The bottom line for now is that there are legitimate spaces where religion, or at least religious-type thoughts, and the broad field of philosophy, can co-exist with science. The meaning of life is whatever you want to make it i.e. it’s subjective, so if some people want the meaning of their lives defined by a religion then who is anyone else to say they shouldn’t? (As long as their choices don’t wilfully negatively impact on other people’s choices to choose their own meanings, but this applies to the non-formally-religious or secular too.) Therefore this world must find room and tolerance for both science/secularism and religion/religious-type beliefs. Religion isn’t going to go away as long as humans cognitively think like humans.
Woof to all, whatever your beliefs, colour, gender, etc.. (Remember that woof means love.)