Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Thoughts on Science, Philosophy, and Religion

What is philosophy?

Before going any further, it is important to uncover what philosophy does (or at least is meant to do). Philosophy includes, but is not limited to: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, ethics, aesthetics, and logic. Metaphysics is the study of sensual reality versus transcendent (not necessarily spiritual) reality. Epistemology is the study of theory and knowledge of truth. Value theory is a broad class that involves the study of subjective and objective values of all types. Ethics is defined as the study of moral values, placing this concept in the same class as value theory. Aesthetics is the study of the value of art and subjective concept of beauty. Before the last object is studied, it is important to note a significant difference between the former classes and Logic, the final topic to be discussed. While the former concepts listed were classes that referred to various fields of philosophical thought, Logic is more of a tool that is used, in conjunction to the others, to make sense of reality. Logic is defined as the formulation of principles of right reasoning. Now that reasoning has been mentioned, it is time to mention important factors of philosophy: reasoning, criticism, examination, and analysis. Philosophy is considered to be a rational and critical enterprise, involving the use of sound reasoning, logic, value analysis, personal examination, and an open mind to have full effect. One final item to note before reaching the definition of philosophy is the notion of philosophy not applying to modern life and everyday issues. That notion is incorrect. Such a notion overlooks the very structure of the human existence. Modern, complex issues stem from simpler issues - such as the basis of political issues stemming from personal ethics and populism, clashing in a struggle to decide the fate of a population via the actions of the individual. Philosophy,in the Greek, is equated to the "love of wisdom" and "pursuit of knowledge". Philosophy urges people to attempt to think rationally and critically about the questions deemed most relevant to human existence - especially the question of what is and isn’t (reality). The way in which philosophy is performed and practiced resides in that which is known as Philosophical methodology. Wikipedia:

"Systematic philosophy is a generic term that applies to philosophical methods and approaches that attempt to provide a framework in reason that can explain all questions and problems related to human life. Examples of systematic philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Hegel. In a meaningful sense, all of western philosophy from Plato to the modern schools of theoretical metaphysics. In many ways, any attempts to formulate a philosophical method that provides the ultimate constituents of reality, a metaphysics, can be considered systematic philosophy. In modern philosophy the reaction to systematic philosophy began with Kierkegaard and continued in various forms through analytic philosophy, existentialism, hermeneutics, and deconstructionism.[1]

Some common features of the methods that philosophers follow (and discuss when discussing philosophical method) include:

-Methodic doubt - a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs.
-Argument - provide an argument or several arguments supporting the solution.
-Dialectic - present the solution and arguments for criticism by other philosophers, and help them judge their own."

What is Religion?

Religion, according to philosophy, is a concept involving the binding of a person to a subjectively ultimate concern and/or god-like figure. In terms of philosophy, it has not much to do with what one thinks, but more so what one does. However, religion is more like philosophy than one would assume from the given description. Religion also attempts to answer the ultimate questions of existence as well, but then proceeds to enter the metaphysical and spiritual realms of the human mind and decision-making processes. Religion is an organized collection of beliefs and views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Philosophy, in contrast doesn’t necessarily suggest the existence of a deity, but instead an ultimate reality and the existence of the perfect forms that exist in the “Ideal state”, theorized by Plato. Philosophy also bases ethics and value more so upon logic and what is deemed good, according to logic and certain basic truths. With philosophy’s method, more than one interpretation of right and wrong could emerge. Religion attempts to make only one set of ethics, for all who follow. Philosophy and religion both attempt to make objective the topic of ethics. If one were to infer which of Williams James’s philosophical inclinations/mindsets religion most closely follows, it would probably be the tender-minded. In limited terms, the tender-minded tend to relate more to conviction and belief, interpersonal unity, the realm of spiritual existence, the existence of free-will, and a base of general reasoning.

What is science, in relation to philosophy?

On the other hand, science is the empirical study of the natural world, with its Latin etymological origin coming from the word for knowledge - "scientia". While both science and philosophy are pursuits of knowledge, science is a more specific field that can only apply to the natural world and universe. Both science and philosophy have static methods of processing information and discerning truth. While philosophy is open to change in results, science is less flexible. In addition to this, science makes no attempt to delineate the the properties or nature of the metaphysical. Science does not delve into the realm of metaphysical and unexplained phenomena. Philosophy, on the other hand, cannot accurately do what the scientific method does - they are two different things. It could, however, use logical processes and reasoning to interpret and analyze data and empirical results to reach conclusions. If one were to infer which of Williams James’s philosophical inclinations/mindsets science most closely follows, it would most-likely be the tough-minded. The tough-minded philosophical mindset is associated with the existence of the "ultimate reality", the non-existence of free-will, the pointlessness of human and world history, the importance of disparity and evidence, and a general base of empirical decision making. Long story short, science can't go anywhere near the realm of metaphysical and unexplained phenomena without labeling it a randomly-calculated coincidence. But, science does have something that appears to mimic the Philosophical Method(ology) - the Scientific Method.

"The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[2] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning...

A linearized, pragmatic scheme...:

Define a question
Gather information and resources (observe)
Form an explanatory hypothesis
Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
Analyze the data
Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
Publish results
Retest (frequently done by other scientists)"

What Does This Mean?

Science and Philosophy, in order to revise knowledge that we know, works with a process that involves questioning the known/given, hypothesizing or arguing a new approach or view, and testing of the new hypothesis - in many cases, performed in a cyclical process, as both practices are everchanging and never complete.

Is there such a thing as a higher power?

While it is widely assumed that religion, esp. Christianity, is misplaced belief in lofty and/or unproven assertions, it is important to note that in multiple instances, scientific research and studies have proven parts of the Christian Bible and its claims to be correct. Moreover, religion in general has never actually been disproven. Science, on the other hand, has had its share of trashed theories and failed experiments. Even some of the Earth's brightest, non-religious minds have suggested, at the very least, the existence of a higher power. Those with the likes of Socrates and Paul Dirac have even touched on the possible existence of a higher plane of existence and a higher power of divine attribution, giving those very aspects of religion as the possible source of life in the universe and reason for the existence of the universe itself. Those with the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were looked down upon by their very peers for having religious/Judeo-Christian ties, and never doubted the existence of a higher power. In Socrates' case, he was executed for his  views. Paul Dirac got off scot-free.

But what I would like to ask of the topic of ethics is this - what is the purpose of ethics, beside leaving people with a subjective veil of grey to navigate. Surely, there must be a reason to why we hold them dear to us, even when their subjectivity causes more conflict than peace. Could it be that at some time in the past, ethics were more universal than what we've made them out to be? Religion provides a dogmatic purpose for such moral values, in particular, Christianity. If one truly cares for another, why would one sin against another. The concept of sin now becomes an issue; one that I will not discuss, for the matter of right and wrong is a discussion for another day.

What does philosophy say about Christianity? Is it right or wrong?

Philosophy sees Christianity as a dogmatic religion. To an extent, it is correct to say so. But, so are some philosophers in their rejection of the existence of a higher power. One can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god. Even scientists cannot fully disprove the concept; therefore, those who are opposed to it simply mock those who think otherwise. In a sense, science has become a faith as well. In modern times, it has become an attempt to explain the forces of nature while explaining away the "preposterous thought" of the existence of a higher power - that of which has been unsuccessful thus far. Nonetheless, philosophers do have the right to claim that Christians are dogmatic; Christians have a sturdily-supported faith thus far, in both the realms of the scientific mind and the tender-minded alike. A true faith requires a certain level of dogmatism from its followers, especially in holding strictly to what is stated in text - in this case, the Bible.

Concluding Thoughts

To compare the two, this paper will start with science. Science starts reality with the the singularity (also known as the ‘BigBang’) providing all matter and energy and the theory that states all things are made of matter and energy - the former being another form of the latter. Lacking any assumed truths (aside from the unexplained nature of the singularity), science follows the tough-minded side of philosophy quite well. It’s primarily empirical approach limits all of detectable, observable reality to the will of explainable calculation and provable theory. Contrary to such is the approach of religion. In many cases, based upon the existence of a higher power and certain fundamental assertions that underlie all of  existence, religion takes to the tender-minded mindset, and follows the line of philosophy referring to the existence of certain existing truths that simply can’t be proven; like mathematical postulates that scientists may use time and time again. Religion also provides a basis for objective values/ethics and the fact that there is distinguishable good and not-good (bad), with good being the basis for what humanity will inevitably concentrate toward, and the existence and impact of free-will. Science, in some cases, suggests against that of either the latter or both. In overall concept and structure, religion appears to more-closely follow the intended path of the pursuit of truth, set forth in the field of philosophy.

To conclude this flow of thought, philosophy shares a common link with all knowledge-seeking disciplines - the pursuit of knowledge and truth. How they go about their search is what distinguishes them from each other. While science uses an empirical, tough-minded approach that involves the scientific method, religion is tender-minded, and involves the use of certain assumed truths that underlie the rest of reality. Philosophy is the search for truth that, while having certain assumed truths, also has to abide by logic, and also extends into the metaphysical. While both science and religion seek truth, religion more closely follows the philosophical method.

For more:

No comments:

Post a Comment