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This seems like such an obvious topic that it's probably been done before, but if so I don't recall it. Anyway. I've been making my views on religion known more than my relatively restrained usual lately, and I've come across some really smart people who disagree with basic premises of what I think. While I can definitely be persuaded on matters of semantics, the overall gist of the arguments I've seen - basically that disciplines other than scientific ones (say, philosophy, theology, even literature, etc) describe reality, that there is somehow a different sort of reality for them to describe, I can't be persuaded into thinking, at least not with the arguments I've met with so far. Whatever forces organize the universe are unlikely in my view to take human considerations (hey, isn't astrology a discipline to some people) into account when acting.

Anyway, I have gone many years with the (perhaps unjustified) assumption that most people on this board are atheists; but even if this is true there are likely to be disagreements about what the implications of this are. Lovecraft (an unapologeticaly elitist atheist) thought that voting rights should require an IQ test, for example. When I see Sarah Palin, I am tempted to agree. Intelligence does not mean that people won't be crazy it just makes it statistically less likely. Anyway that's enough from me, it's been a while since there was a good/new discussion thread on here so hopefully this goes somewhere.
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Re #147, That means an idea to any particular theory always remain in limbo. I'm sure theories do get proven and are part of a stage in progress. I have my own definition of the term theory, and you have yours. Nothing is wrong with that. And yes, I'm stupid as anyone else can be. No big deal... 
You Are Talking About Verification 
not proof. And no, I don't have my own definition of the term "scientific theory", I'm referring to what is generally understood under this term (see If you mean something else, you should clarify that.

And I didn't, and wasn't going to, call you stupid ;-) 
Spirit Moves Through All Things!!! 
Ok... I'm Not Trying To Flame Out 
It's my bad composition.
I guess then, verify as many points so as to prove a theory would be in the right spirit. As ricky has it. Nobody here is really off on the definition I feel, and wouldn't be wrong if they used their own (slightly different) interpretation. As long as nobody is trying to fool anyone. Spirit Rules! 
I didn't notice myself tipping over a cup of water. later, I noticed my feet were wet. Deduction led me to believe 100% it was the tipped cup. But, I didn't see it. So there's no proof. Dang! 
Zwiffle says. I don't understand what you are trying to say! 
I didn't notice myself tipping over a cup of water. later, I noticed my feet were wet. Deduction led me to believe 100% it was the tipped cup. But, I didn't see it. So there's no proof. Dang!

That is correct. And why science has theories. That's the whole definition thing.

There's also no proof that either the cup, the water or your feet exist. Or that you exist. (see comments on descartes many posts ago) 
Oh, and the word you are looking for in your previous posts is hypothosis. Not theory. 
Proof is for mathematics/logic. Of course you don't have proof. But what you do have is EVIDENCE (your foot is wet, there's a puddle of water near where the cup fell, etc.)

Also, when you deduce something, you don't believe the results, you 'think' the results. You 'think' you tipped the cup over, you don't 'believe' you tipped the cup over. Belief is appropriate where there is little or no acceptable evidence.

Also, from a previous post, you don't 'feel' definitions. You define and accept or reject them. And yes, when debating about things logically, it is incorrect and JUST PLAIN BAD to have differing definitions of things, having different definitions is unacceptable. I have a suspicion that's what causes so much ignorance about science nowadays.

Especially in the USA, people don't know the difference between hypothesis and theory. They think Darwin's Evolution somehow is a theory of everything that includes the origin of the universe, encompasses all of physics, and somehow also explains how life started on Earth, when all it does is explain how species change over generations through ecological pressures into different species, and nothing more.

That's why I asked for a definition of mainstream science earlier, because I had no real concrete idea what that term meant.

Now for your example of the tipped cup specifically, I assume you're trying to get across how science fails, but I can't really see how you could reach that conclusion from that example. I don't see how it's scientific. You did no tests/experiments, etc. So I'm still unsure what you were trying to convey. 
I'm an engineer by profession, a scientist by practice, and a Christian by choice. I'll talk about it more if anyone's interested, but I just wanted to say that there do exist Christians who believe in science wholeheartedly. 
Are you American? That would be like the smallest of minorities in America then - Christians who accept science (even when it doesn't agree with their doctrine!) 
How can you be a scientist and still be a Christian? Those things seem mutually exclusive to me. Science is about measurement and fact, Christianity is about believing an enormous amount of unverifiable things that were written in a single book, by anonymous people.

There is absolutely no way to prove the hypothesis of Christianity. If you believe that you're going to heaven or hell, why not also believe that rocks lay eggs? If you believe that a man 2000 years ago turned water into wine and was born without conception, why not believe in magic or unicorns or vampires?

If you take one thing on faith, why not everything? 
Aaaaaaa No Please No 
The pointless discussions on the rest of the internet are over there ---> 
There is the argument that 'science can't explain everything' and thus some things must be taken on faith, or that there is something supernatural that exists (that can't be detected no matter how much you try, but also heavily influences the physical world - explain the logic behind that to me please.)

Some people say that 'science can explain the 'what' or 'how' of things but not the 'why' of things. In order to explain the why, you need a supernatural entity. To them I'd ask to show why the universe would have a reason for its existence in the first place. A 'reason' is more of a human creation rather than a universal principle as far as I can tell - the universe isn't alive in the sense of a human, so it having a reason to exist would be nonsensical. It merely exists as a result of the physical laws of nature.But then, where did those come from? Also the question 'why?' can be rephrased as "for what purpose?" or "for what reason?" eliminating the question of "why" altogether, or at least putting it in terms science is prepared to tackle.

And then we reach the god of the gaps, which is "science can't yet explain this, therefore god!" which is also utter nonsense. Science gains ground very rapidly and our understanding improves and refines itself each and every day. Note that there is a subtle but important difference between god of the gaps and the first example - god of the gaps says 'we don't yet know, therefore god' but the first example says 'there are things that are unexplainable by science.' How they know there are things unexplainable by science is beyond me, but somehow they just know.

Anyhoo, just thought this was an interesting topic and despite mwh's protests I wouldn't mind continuing the conversation. :) 
To post 166, the answers from my perspective as a semi-traditional, fundamentalist Christian would be yes, and...

I'd further say, well stated. I doubt I could or even would argue with anything (generally speaking) that you've postulated. Logic has very little meaning to those who have faith in "In the beginning God...". In fact, I'd say that empirical proof is absolutely nonessential and would actually be damning to the position I hold in "faith".

Illogical, foolish, irrational and seemingly the antithesis of science? You bet. I'm not ashamed to be labeled like that. Christ refers to himself as "God's own fool." why should his followers be any different? I certainly wouldn't try to convince you otherwise or condemn you for any negative opinions you have of me or my beliefs.

On the other hand, believe it or not I'm very pro-science and am constantly amazed at new breakthroughs and revelations "it" reveals. One nice thing about faith ( the way I understand it) is that it's positioning isn't, or maybe shouldn't be static, aside from some very essential doctrines. In my life's experience, science (what limited exposure I have to that vast oceans of it) has done as much to reaffirm my faith as it has to give me temporary reason to question it. The former always coming out on top.

So, I guess I'll take the refuge of a scoundrel and simply state that my personal experiences (OH NOES! He's being anecdotal) have solidified my irrational, foolish and possibly lunatic faith. All pejorative terms I've been labeled with before, but not by any here, I'm not attempting to put words in anyone's mouth.

This is always an interesting conversation, which usually ends poorly but oh well, we're all big-n-tough game nerds right? And fair warning, I'm prone to answer many-many questions with "I have no idea, I'll leave that to faith and time." Also, I do tend to be a grouchy old fart these days (the o'lady refers to me as being "old and busted") so please forgive me if I've come across that way. 
Why are you christian? Rather than generic theist I mean (I don't mean why do you have faith in God. Just why specifically christianity?) 
Great question, I want to try and avoid any histrionics, so give me a bit time to best explain the wherefore's and why's.

In brief though my "religious" background kind of looks like this;

- Born into a very dysfunctional home that was "saved/fixed" via a very legalistic fundamentalist Christian church community. That'd be the Plymouth Brethren in this case and very little was actually fixed.

- Rebelled from pretty much every aspect of it at age 13-14.

- Was a pretty violent, head-bashing drunk from age 16-25 or so. I did a whole lot of soul searching throughout this time period, which included loads of time researching several other sects and religions.

- Found my true north when I was invited to hang out with group of like-experienced Christians. No legalism, loads of grace. Met my wife there, we've been hitched for 20 years, have not looked back since.

Okay, that's the history. I'll get to the why's once I've thought through the best way to communicate it. I think that in the end though, it's gonna be that whole "square peg in a round hole" scenario. 
seems mostly a cultural thing to me

I was raised laid-back Protestant, and the ideas and metaphors of Christianity (the good parts about helping people and the value of human life) still mean something to me. I've heard lots of stories from the US and from recovering Muslims so my experience is NOTHING like that. Canada's pretty tolerant, or at least seems so with the US next door. I'll bet we could elect an atheist - and we should, because no matter how valuable cultural traditions can be (and to me they are very valuable), the pursuit of truth (ie the literal claim that the god claimed by all 3.5k or thereabouts versions of christianity actually exists, is false) has to take precedence especially in politics; public policy must be based on factual truth, factual truth that has nothing to do with culture. I like to imagine that some kind of vague personalized morality/destiny/intelligence is out there, but I know that this is literally not true. Draw a line between a cool idea and a true idea, is my advice to everyone on religion. PS I've had fundamentalist roommates who go door to door for jesus and are creationists - on that one I can never tell whether to laugh or cry. 
But You Don't ... 
I like to imagine that some kind of vague personalized morality/destiny/intelligence is out there, but I know that this is literally not true

You can't know that. The universe will at some point likely be discovered to be a bit more complicated than we had ever imagined.

We know what we know due to our tools and methods. Most of these are less than 400 years old, yet humans have been around maybe 40,000 years in the current form.

The largest weakness of mankind is to rule out things, in situations where there is not sufficient information to do so.

Man's foil is his pride. We know a lot more than we did. But we certainly have not advanced THAT far as to arrive to final conclusions about too much of anything.

public policy must be based on factual truth


public policy must be based on factual truth

What is factual truth? How does that relate to public policy? 300 years from now, some of our decisions in our time will look very ignorant and misinformed. If so, I think history will judge that we didn't have that much factual truth and certainly less than we thought we did. 
Hey Baker much respect btw :)
Persons/people proceed in life (commit actions) by ruling things out, in practice if not in principle. You and I do not worry about witchcraft for example. Every action we commit, has assumptions - both positive and negative (aka things ruled out) behind it.

as for public policy must be based on factual truth - and your problem with that - no offense but really are you serious. The issue you cite - that future generations will see us as ignorant (and btw this is only true if progress happens, ie the same progress that makes us look at galileo's persecutor's as evil neanderthals with an unfortunate access to aristotle) IF PROGRESS OCCURS.

IF progress occurs - that is to say: if we become more physically healthy, psychologically open-minded, culturally tolerant (of course none of this while losing sight of human rights), hell if anything like that happens then yes 3 generations from now we will all seem like evil, crazed Witch-hunters.

I have two points.

1) Truth is truth. You can look away from a rock and it's still there. When you die that rock is still there. 4 billion years - think about that - of this planet.

2) In an increasingly multicultural world: policy has to be cross-cultural. And the fact that science is outside of all human culture (ie if all humans died newton's laws would still be valid at their scales), means that scientific fact is the best basis for policy.

I now will admit this: no meaningful policy changes regarding human-caused global warming (99% of scientists whatever deniers say) will occur within the next 20 years.

I will say this: denial of factual truth is a nice, comfy, sexy way for our entire species to fuck itself over.

And I will also say: If I lowered my standards enough I could have kids, and I think I'd do a better job as a parent by being more honest, than my parents did with me.... but fuck that. But I do say this: what do you, and anyone else who is reading: actually EXPECT in the next twenty years. What do you really expect. 
I Used To Imagine 
That if the Universe is truly infinite, that there could be another planet exactly like this one, with exactly the same shit in it, but everything is running exactly five seconds behind us. That is just one example which I just thought up, but literally ANYTHING would be in a truly infinite universe.

I also like the idea of trying to visualise a fourth dimension.

I don't think it's possible to claim there definitely is or isn't a god. But the idea that god exists in exactly the way described in any of the Christian bible(s), or any other faith for that matter, is ridiculous IMO. Emphasis on the word 'exactly'. 
@ Tronyn Mostly 
@ Ricky real quick

I also like the idea of trying to visualise a fourth dimension.

For certain, time. Which is why Newtonian physics cannot be used in astronomy and atomic clocks in orbit go out of sync with the clocks on Earth.

But beyond that there are a lot of theories that speculate that there are more than 3 dimensions of space. Most forms of string theory have 10 or 11.

Policy ...In an increasingly multicultural world: policy has to be cross-cultural.

Isn't there a strong tie between irrational beliefs and culture? If so, in a way on one hand you are saying religion shouldn't be involved in policy but then on the other hand it should be.

as for public policy must be based on factual truth - and your problem with that - no offense but really are you serious.

Yes and no. I am both serious and not serious, but with a bit of point.

Humans come to false and final conclusions every day. Science isn't about final conclusions.

The key to having an open and flexible mind is challenging "final conclusions", not embracing final conclusions.

The weakness of irrationally strong religious beliefs is specifically that it comes to several questionable final conclusions and instead of embracing creative thought, it discourages it.

Likewise, coming to premature final truths from a different perspective is merely repeating the same mistake. 
Let's Say You Have Someone Uneducated ... 
In order to interact with other human beings, they need some concept of right and wrong. To protect themselves and others who interact with them. Does not a simple "holy" book of simple to understand right and wrongs help them to achieve social interaction?

Furthermore, it has easy to understand explanations:

Q: Why should I not hurt or kill other people or steal from them?
A: Because God said so.

As they move up the knowledge ladder, an individual has greater ability to thoughtfully ponder the rules and reasons behind them. Hence as education increases, strong fixed religious beliefs decrease. But not all are equally educated, nor able to be educated.

So we have a partially voluntary caste system. 
Additionally ... 
Some additional advantages of "skygod" dictated morality:

1. Doing it secretly or when no others are looking is of no use. The skygod will know!

2. The skygod reserves his punishment for after you are dead. Therefore, there is no way to disprove such a punishment exists.

3. The immoral pagan who advocates stealing or killing will have trouble persuading the skygod follower who tells him it is "ok" to disobey the skygod. So it confers a degree of persuasion immunity for others to negatively alter the individual's moral compass.

Religion is a rather ingenious device.

If you take into account that back in the ancient days the typical person was illiterate, maybe religion was specially crafted by educated people or kings or wise tribal leader to develop an effective and simple system for the masses. 
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