Monday, April 1, 2013

More Mythmaker Comment: Science Is Knowledge; Religion Is Not Truth

       Neil Aplin's comments on my earlier post Beginning My Mythmaker Analysis contain enough interesting material for several responding posts! Today I'm going to address two more of his remarks.

       Let's begin with his interpretation of my statement where I defined " ' ... science with a truer meaning: the hunger for knowledge ...' But I would say that science isn't a 'hunger for knowledge', but rather it's a proven methodology for revealing answers to questions that can be relied upon. The methodology is repeated testing of a hypothesis until a conclusion can be reached, and then peer review to try and disprove it. The 'hunger for knowledge' is just a human characteristic that drives the motivation to use the scientific method to find the truth."
       Here's what I said in context: "By the middle of the 27th century, humanism had prevailed and the concept of the scientific had been changed forever. Technology, which the Mythmakers had called “soulless,” had become subordinated to a science with a truer meaning: the hunger for knowledge."
       Possibly I could have chosen a better word than "hunger," but what I'm doing here is not defining science so much as contrasting it with technology. Precept No. 8: Science has a soul; technology is soulless. (Let's not get into the concept of soul until a later post.) Technology is a tool of science or an instrument of change; it's not a seeker for knowledge in and of itself, and when it is allowed to take control (such as when it's used to invent instruments of war) it can become devastating. Science in and of itself is neutral or even positive -- seeking knowledge is in most cases a positive goal. 
       Here is the derivation of the word science as given in :
"1300–50; Middle English < Middle French < Latin scientia knowledge, equivalent to scient- (stem of sciēns ), present participle of scīre to know + -ia"
       While part of the definition of science involves methodology, the word is founded more broadly; at its roots "science" means "knowledge."  In The Termite Queen v.2, Kaitrin seeks for a way to explain to Kwi'ga'ga'tei the Shshi Seer all these little "magic" boxes and gizmos that they use to communicate and to investigate their surroundings.  This exchange takes place:
       As Griffen and Trea scanned the crouching Alate’s wings and eyes and ran sensors over her body, she said to Kaitrin, You make your a’tas’zi| upon me
       “We do not call it ‘magic,’” Kaitrin said. “We call it … ” For what was the root of the word “science,” anyway? Knowledge. Systematic, demonstrable knowledge. The Shshi had two words that could apply: preiv’zi|, “something known”; and parn’zi|, “something learned.” “ … a way of knowing, a way of learning. There is much that we do not know and these boxes help us to learn. So you should call them ‘learning boxes,’ not ‘magic boxes.’”
       There are things that you can learn from the Shshi?
       “Oh, yes. A great deal.”
       The thing that we learn most from you is how much we do not know.

       Now here is another of Neil Aplin's comments:
       "You then say " ... Myth and gods are not science; they are faith-based..." Absolutely, again I agree. And basing something on faith rather than evidence is another way of explaining the meaning of the word 'hope' - so something faith-based is that which we hope is true, it's wishful thinking, or fantasy. But just because we hope something is true doesn't then make it true, although I wish this wasn’t the case – if only wishing something could actually make it come about!"

        What we have to consider here is the definition of truth and of faith. I don't see it having anything to do with hope. For example, my computer just crashed! Don't you hate that? -- all your passwords disappear! Fortunately, Blogger saves so frequently that I didn't lose anything I'd written on this post. But it gave me this example: "Gee, I hope my computer doesn't crash!" By that, I mean "I wish" this wouldn't happen. It doesn't mean I have faith that it won't -- In fact, I'm pretty sure it will sooner or later. 
       Faith is something a lot stronger than hope. Nobody ever fought a war because they "hoped" that the cause they believed in was the right one. And faith has nothing to do with scientific proof. It is an irrational, non-scientific belief that something is true. I don't have to understand anything about gravity to "have faith" that the stone is always going to fall downward when it is dropped. Experience has shown me that it will. (Of course, I suppose quantum theory might say that at times it might fall up.)
      (Parenthetically, wishful thinking is not fantasy. "I wish this were true" is not the way people read fantasy novels. While they are reading and absorbing the symbolism, they suspend disbelief. If they don't, it's a badly constructed piece of writing. But that doesn't mean they believe that fantasy embodies scientific truth or conditions that exist in the real world -- that's a serious mistake and can lead to people shooting up movie theaters and schools, or jumping off buildings because they've become convinced they can fly like angels.)
       Anyway, that's not my point. When people say they have faith in god's existence, they aren't just hoping the entity exists, they really believe it. And nobody can prove they are wrong. Neither can they prove you wrong when you say you don't believe god exists. God is an unknowable entity. 
       And if people choose to believe, they should be allowed to do so, just like the atheist or the agnostic should be allowed to "believe" what he or she wants. That's why we have freedom of thought and freedom of religion in the present day, and paradoxically it's why the Mythmaker philosophy banned the open practice of religion, because equating religion (defined as an organized belief in a unified body of orthodox dogma) with Truth is an oxymoron, in my opinion.

Precept No. 10. The Right Way is universal; the Truth is parochial and divisive.

       The problem is that many people believe so strongly that their religion embodies the one and only Truth that they want to suppress or destroy everybody who doesn't believe the same thing. An uncountable number of wars over the centuries of history have been fought over these truths, causing an incomprehensible amount of misery, destruction, and death. So believe your own truth -- your own faith -- but keep it to yourself and live peacefully, listening to the inner moral directives that come from being human (the Right Way).

(A disclaimer: I can't say I feel really qualified to be discussing such esoteric topics, but I feel strongly about these things, so I plan to keep right on pontificating!)


  1. Really enjoyed this - you've stated your position clearly as always! Thanks so much for getting to grips with my comments - really appreciated!

    1. I've worked my way through your first original comment, and I will be addressing some of the things you said in the second. Thanks for providing some jumping-off points for new posts! However, I may be posting on some different subject matter for a while.