Science, Religion & Truth

Yak Wax (
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 14:10:46 -0700 (PDT)

Ian Goddard wrote:

> What? You think Religions are seeking
> truth?

I think "religion" is seeking truth. Religions have generally found
it. Just like "science" seeks knowledge (or the creation of theory)
and General Relativity has found it.

> I'd say that that pretty much defines
> what they are NOT doing and what
> science IS doing. Almost without
> except, religions consider their
> definition of truth to be defined,
> like, case closed. On the other hand,
> in science the supreme truth, which
> might be the "Unified Field Theory,"
> is yet to be found, and admittedly so.
> So what is actively being sought in
> science is absolute knowledge of truth
> (that's why people are still
> researching). The "religious seeker"
> may be looking for truth, but
> virtually any given religion has
> "found it."

Even if science were seeking "the supreme truth" what scientists would
claim to have found it? As it happens quite a few, and they were all
wrong. And when we find the Theory of Everything that defines
everything from Quantum Gravity to why I'm on this list, it'll still
be false. I honestly have no use for the truth. The truth bores me.
If you're looking for truth in science then it's going to be a long
day. Religion offers instant satisfaction (a great thing in this
consumer society). So which of the two is better? Fortunately
neither science nor extropianism claims to offer the truth, so we're

[BTW, I'm fully aware that I'm contradicting some previous posts,
"Open Truth Networks" for instance. However, I still think it's
possible for an open society to exist under the illusion of truth (as
John K. Clark said at the time, in reality the truth could be any
number of things, we can never be entirely sure). Perhaps a closed
society (via increased personal privacy, cryptography, anonymity,
etc.) would lead to the disillusion of "truth" and "reality" and the
advancement of society.]

> Religions have truths generally in
> spite of themselves. Because they had
> some wise observers at their roots, or
> along the way. Yet in the broad
> definition that Erik applies to ExI,
> we could even define science as a
> religion, since it has principles and
> de facto rituals. But a scientific
> ritual of investigation seeks to gain
> new information, whereas most
> religious rituals seek to simply
> repeat old information.

Science seeks to gain knowledge, not information. Knowledge advances
us by creating more knowledge; information doesn't have this property.
Perhaps we could say science is a religion by Erik's definition, but
that would contradict my definition so I'd rather not.

[Theories should be judge through benefit...]
> That's the principle I see people here
> applying to my holistic theory: "Ya,
> OK, so it's true, but so what? Does it
> get a better mouse trap, a faster
> car?" Utility over truth.

So your theory yields absolutely no benefit, creates no knowledge, and
has no application? In that case I would question whether it is
theory or just noise.

> I think that principle, "utility over
> truth," is actually pretty religious.
> Religions serve a utilitarian purpose
> to those therein. It gets them feeling
> better, it gives them stability, it
> gives them fraternity, hope, and so
> forth.

If your seeking truth then religion is the perfect answer, so it does
have utility. Knowledge simply leads to more knowledge or
information, which is (from my point of view) beneficial. However, in
a utilitarian sense knowledge is not always beneficial, in fact
religion is probably the best answer to any utilitarian philosophy.

> Show them that the underlying claims
> of truth their religion stands on are
> false and that doesn't really matter
> to them, since truth is NOT the real
> goal they are after. So I see your
> definition of the goal of science as
> more fitting to the goal of religion.

Truth is what they seek, which truth doesn't matter since all truths
were created equal. Tell them their ideas are false and of course
they won't listen. Prove to them that their ideas are false and
you've done the impossible. Science and truth do not mix, science can
never discover a truth because *everything* is open to question.

> I think it falls apart totally in that
> I believe that the degree to which
> science yields material outcomes is
> the degree to which science has
> discovered truths. And future
> benefits from science will come from
> future discoveries of truth.

>From my perspective (I expect we agree in more ways than our semantics
allow) what is true and what is false are one and the same. Anything
that you consider to be true I can offer a counter truth, neither and
both of these are true. The truth is unknowable.

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