Saturday, June 27, 2009

What epistemology?

Learned of the following via the Center for Inquiry. It's an article by physicist Lawrence Krauss in yesteday's Wall Street Journal.

Science is only truly consistent with an atheistic worldview with regards to the claimed miracles of the gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Moreover, the true believers in each of these faiths are atheists regarding the specific sacred tenets of all other faiths. Christianity rejects the proposition that the Quran contains the infallible words of the creator of the universe. Muslims and Jews reject the divinity of Jesus.

So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, and thus to conclude that claimed miracles like the virgin birth are incompatible with our scientific understanding of nature.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma.

Perhaps the most important contribution an honest assessment of the incompatibility between science and religious doctrine can provide is to make it starkly clear that in human affairs -- as well as in the rest of the physical world -- reason is the better guide.

I really don't understand why anyone bothers defending religion. It claims to have a valid epistemology. Well, ok, show us. What supernaturalistic claim does any religion have that's been verified to be true? We've been waiting for several millennia now. Face it. Religion has tons of supernatural claims. None have been found or is known to be true It has tons of empirical claims too (and it even claims to have a real epistemology) and a good number have already been disconfirmed (eg. the earth is not--as some sacred texts claim--flat, the age of the earth is way more than ten millennia, there is just no evidence for any worldwide deluge, evolution is the origin of species not some mythic anthropomorphic militaristic macho prick as claimed by a tribe in the Bronze Age, ....)

Provide us a means by which we can find out whether religious epistemology actually works. For instance offer a procedure by which revelation can be shown to be a valid way of knowing. And show that revelation (whereby a "truth" or idea is placed in someone's head by a supposed supernatural entity) actually is a revelation from a supernatural entity and not just natural firing of neurons. Show that whatever "truth" is supposedly uttered by this prophet is not true simply due to coincidence or was arrived at by other ways of knowing.

In contrast, science has demonstrated again and again and again over hundreds of years that its epistemology does work and does provide us reliable knowledge. If you've ever used a computer and know of the things called airplane and antibiotic and seen those stunning Hubble deep space photographs then you would be a freaking idiot to claim that science doesn't work.

Epistemic progess is of course a barometer of the validity of the epistemology that any discipline flaunts. So which domain has had epistemic progress? Yes that's a no-brainer. Which religion has had any epistemic progress vis-a-vis supposed supernatural "truths"? If this were a contest (and I think it is!) religion should've been booed out of the stadium eons ago.

Now tell me which of the two is arrogant: Science which lets reality be the ultimate arbiter as to which explanations, hypotheses, theories are true, or religion which rides roughshod over reality whenever any of its doctrines/dogmas are contradicted by reality?

Yes, I am so uber frustrated over the fact that even educated adults keep getting duped into clinging to superstitions in sheep's clothing.

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