Hal on Science versus Religion

From: Mark Walker (tap@cgocable.net)
Date: Sun Mar 04 2001 - 12:54:40 MST

Hal wrote:

>The writing is on the wall for religion; eventually it will be reduced to
>something like Zen Buddhism, a set of rituals practiced for the peace of
>mind they bring. Unless, of course, some religion turns out to be true,
>and God, or Allah, or whoever, steps in to protect his faithful and smite
>the unbelievers. Without such intervention, science will kill religion.
>Given this reality, conflict is inevitable.

Arguably Christianity already has at its disposal such emasculated forms of theology, e.g., Tillich's "symbol of ultimate concern". The other logical possibility here is an emasculated version of science. There are a number of theories about the nature of science that sees science other than in the pursuit of THE TRUTH, e.g., some versions of pragmatism, Kuhn's social-historical analysis of science, and various contemporary "social-constructivist" analyzes. These views have gained a certain (distressing in my view) amount of currency. In my view, however, the science versus religion is not the big controvery.

  To my mind, the conflict that is more relevant is between conservatives about human nature and activists about human nature. The former believe that we ought not to employ technology to "tamper" with human nature. Among the former we will find both scientists and the religious type (sometimes in the same person). The latter believe that we ought to employ technology to improve human nature-overcome various limitations, e.g., intelligence and lifespan. The latter (obviously) includes transhumanists and extropians (but there appears to be logical space here for other positions). Clearly scientists may be among this number, but so can the religious type. For example, there is the Irenaean theological tradition that is consistent with the aspiration to employ technology to improve humanity. Modern Irenaeans, for instance, take serious the geological record and our continuity with other life on this planet. God gave us just enough ability so that we could improve ourselves to become more in his "likeness" and (arguably), we might need to employ technology as part of this project.

                While I am an atheist, in a certain sense there is more agreement between myself and the Irenaean activist as opposed to the scientific conservative (about human nature). Mark.

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