A reader recommends a book that unites science and religion

The publication of my article at The Conversation about the incompatibility of science and religion has flushed many termites out of the woodwork. Below is an isopteran email I got yesterday. Have a gander (the name has been redacted to protect the benighted). In the email I’ve put a link to the Wikipedia entry about the recommended book:

Hello – I just read one of your articles from ‘The Conversation’, titled ‘Yes, There is a War between Science and Religion’.

I believe the gap between religion and science can be bridged with one book:

The Urantia Book.

If this doesn’t help you bridge the gap, then it’s quite possible you don’t really want that gap to be bridged.

If it does, then…you’re welcome!

Well, this person assumes that I WANT the gap between science and religion to be bridged, but nowhere in that article do I express that desire. Further, if you read that piece, it’s pretty clear that unless religion drastically changes its ways of assessing what’s true, which means abandoning faith, then in my view the gap cannot be bridged. And religion hasn’t done that, of course, and won’t, so the endeavor is futile.

But look up The Urantia Book; it’s free online here.   The book is of unknown authorship, supposedly originating in Chicago between 1924 and 1955. “Urantia” is the name the author(s) gave to “Earth.”

I’ve had a look at it, and it’s mostly straight-on religion mixed with messed-up science. It begins with the flat assumption that God exists, and just gets loonier and loonier throughout the 196 “papers” that the book comprises. There is stuff like this:

BETWEEN the central Isle of Paradise and the innermost of the Havona planetary circuits there are situated in space three lesser circuits of special spheres. The innermost circuit consists of the seven secret spheres of the Universal Father; the second group is composed of the seven luminous worlds of the Eternal Son; in the outermost are the seven immense spheres of the Infinite Spirit, the executive-headquarters worlds of the Seven Master Spirits.

Yes, there’s a tacit acceptance of evolution in some bits (though some species are said to orginate instantly via macromutations), but it really goes haywire (and racist) when it gets to hominins:

900,000 years ago the arts of Andon and Fonta and the culture of Onagar were vanishing from the face of the earth; culture, religion, and even flintworking were at their lowest ebb.

These were the times when large numbers of inferior mongrel groups were arriving in England from southern France. These tribes were so largely mixed with the forest apelike creatures that they were scarcely human. They had no religion but were crude flintworkers and possessed sufficient intelligence to kindle fire.

They were followed in Europe by a somewhat superior and prolific people, whose descendants soon spread over the entire continent from the ice in the north to the Alps and Mediterranean in the south. These tribes are the so-called Heidelberg race.

. . . 6. The indigo race. As the red men were the most advanced of all the Sangik peoples, so the black men were the least progressive. They were the last to migrate from their highland homes. They journeyed to Africa, taking possession of the continent, and have ever since remained there except when they have been forcibly taken away, from age to age, as slaves.

Isolated in Africa, the indigo peoples, like the red man, received little or none of the race elevation which would have been derived from the infusion of the Adamic stock.

And so on, for 2,000 pages. Wikipedia characterizes the four parts of the book:

  • Part I, titled “The Central and Superuniverses,” addresses what the authors consider the highest levels of creation, including the eternal and infinite “Universal Father,” his Trinity associates, and the “Isle of Paradise.”
  • Part II, “The Local Universe,” describes the origin, administration, and personalities of the local universe of “Nebadon.” the part of the cosmos where Earth resides. It presents narratives on the inhabitants of local universes and their work as it is coordinated with a scheme of spiritual ascension and progression of different orders of beings, including humans, angels, and others.
  • Part III, “The History of Urantia,” compiles a broad history of the Earth, presenting a purported explanation of the origin, evolution, and destiny of the world and its inhabitants. Topics include Adam and Eve, Melchizedek, essays on the concept of the Thought Adjuster, “Religion in Human Experience,” and “Personality Survival.”
  • Part IV, “The Life and Teachings of Jesus,” is the largest part at 775 pages, and is often noted as the most accessible and most impressive, narrating a detailed biography of Jesus that includes his childhood, teenage years, family life, and public ministry, as well as the events that led to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Its papers continue about appearances after he rose, Pentecost and, finally, “The Faith of Jesus.”

Wikipedia also summarizes the numerous scientific howlers in the book, which include not just biology but physics.

All in all, it’s a melange of half-baked and often erroneous science melded with a firm belief in the Jesus myth. I am not going to read any more of this tripe, which simply can’t bridge the gap between science and faith:  the science bits are deeply flawed, and the faith bits are delusional. It’s a work of lunacy, pure and simple.

And I reject the claim that because I see the book failing to comport religion and science, I don’t want them comported.

Once again I’m crowdsourcing replies, as I’ve found that when I reply via personal email to these people, usually asking them not to contact me again, they refuse to give up, and I have to block their increasingly nasty emails. I will refer the emailer to this post, and please add comments if you wish.

135 Comments

  1. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Change the title to Madeupia, at least that would be honest. I am going to have to read it though, how sad is that. I just hope I can get through all 2000 pages without a serious brain injury.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I was kidding, by the way. There is no way I am wading through that much ordure.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        I was just thinking just how appreciative of Jerry I am for churning through all this stuff for me (us).

        I would like to read all that stuff, to have complete coverage, but I just couldn’t bear it.

        I thought you were going to be heroic there for a moment.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          I was semi-heroic… the audio version isn’t quite as bad as reading it, but I have hit my limit for the time being; mainly because it is nearly 1 a.m. here and the last thing I want to do is fall asleep with that playing! It’s bad enough dozing off when there’s a film on the telly followed by teleshopping – you get some weird dreams 😉

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Despite what I said, I just had to go there (well, the audio book at least). I present to you:

      1:2.7 (24.5) The existence of God can never be proved by scientific experiment or by the pure reason of logical deduction. God can be realized only in the realms of human experience; nevertheless, the true concept of the reality of God is reasonable to logic, plausible to philosophy, essential to religion, and indispensable to any hope of personality survival.

      It is as bad as I thought it would be, though I am pleased to say that the bolded section of the quote absolves me of any need to explore further.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        “…personality survival”…?

        (If that means heaven, my personality would never survive there…)

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

          😀

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Did you get through the whole thing?

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Not yet. I was drawn in by:

          Skeptic Martin Gardner, in a book otherwise highly critical of The Urantia Book, writes that it is “highly imaginative” and that the “cosmology outrivals in fantasy the cosmology of any science-fiction work known to me.”

          Much as I respect the late and sadly missed Gardner, I am not sure I agree. Paper 31 – The Corps of the Finality does read like Battlefied Earth (and if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend not doing so), in terms of its turgidity and sheer tediousness.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

            What, crazier than Xenu and thetans et al?

            cr

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

              9. Architects of the Master Universe

              31:9.1 (351.2) The Architects of the Master Universe are the governing corps of the Paradise Transcendentalers. This governing corps numbers 28,011 personalities possessing master minds, superb spirits, and supernal absonites. The presiding officer of this magnificent group, the senior Master Architect, is the co-ordinating head of all Paradise intelligences below the level of Deity.

              31:9.2 (351.3) The sixteenth proscription of the mandate authorizing these narratives says: “If deemed wise, the existence of the Architects of the Master Universe and their associates may be disclosed, but their origin, nature, and destiny may not be fully revealed.” We may, however, inform you that these Master Architects exist in seven levels of the absonite. These seven groups are classified as follows:

              Yup.

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        “The existence of God can never be proved by scientific experiment or by the pure reason of logical deduction.”

        Indeed, and neither can the non-existence of God ever be proved by scientific experiment or by the pure reason of logical deduction.

        😀

        • JohnE
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          It depends on what you mean by “proved.” The non-existence of god has already been proved to exactly the same extent as the non-existence of leprechauns. Most of us are sufficiently convinced of the non-existence of leprechauns that it is never seriously debated — which should also be the case with “god”.

          • Posted January 5, 2019 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

            I tend towards Michio Kaku’s position:

            https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/michio-kaku-believes-in-god-if-not-that-god

          • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

            Bravo. I like that way of putting it.

          • Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            A surprisingly large number of physicists (typically theoretical physicists) believe in an “intelligent order behind the universe”. They are sometimes quite close to the pure mathematicians–who are often Platonists–on this. If you regularly use beauty as a guide to truth (and pure mathematicians and theoretical physicists do this) then the extra step can seem easy to take.

            • Posted January 7, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

              I doubt many scientists are thinking God when they speak of an “intelligent order behind the universe”. As to seeing beauty in the laws of the universe or mathematics, humans get pleasure from discovering things about their environment. It seems clear that this is evolutionarily advantageous to our species. Beauty is simply one word we use to describe that pleasure.

            • Posted January 8, 2019 at 12:58 am | Permalink

              How large is large and is it really surprisingly so?

              /@

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        The thing that seriously amazes me is the list of people that Wiki has in the In Popular Culture section.

        Stockhausen based a seven opera cycle on it, Jimi Hendrix carried the book everywhere and even Jerry Garcia “claimed it was “one of his favorite esoteric works”“.

        Why did I not know this?

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    As Spock so eloquently put it :

    “Fascinating”

    … and not in the way the reader would, presumably, like.

  3. Larry Smith
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    No stupider than acid-washed!

    (A reference to SNL’s three-legged jeans parody commercial, and a useful reply to such nonsense.)

  4. Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    How can people believe this kind of stuff?? It really is worrying.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Especially when you consider that some of these people win elections, influence governments…

  5. ploubere
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    The only vaguely interesting aspect of the book is that somebody went to the remarkable effort to write 2,000 pages of fantasy and then tried to promote it as science.

    That strategy did work for L Ron Hubbard, though.

  6. nwalsh
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    They walk among us.

  7. Ken Phelps
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure number one grandson took his car to a drifting course at the Havona planetary circuits.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      That would be cool.

  8. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, I have to quote Wiki because, well:

    The Teaching Mission is a group of Urantia channellers. According to Richard Landes, “The foundation considers them self-deluded, but they have created a schism that continues to disrupt the movement.”

    It turns out that the wack-jobs have schisms just like every other branch of religion, colour me surprised.

    This has been useful, if I ever see the symbol I will be prepared for the worst

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      This symbol.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the link. A blue bullseye–seems appropriate.

  9. Erwin Kloeck
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I assume this book is for people for whom truth is not enough. The need ‘advanced truth’ (whatever that is, maybe truer than regular truth 🙂

    • Janet
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Kind of like alternative facts.

  10. Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    The most interesting thing to me is your correspondent’s assumption that you want to bridge the science/religion gap, including a somewhat subtle sneer in case you don’t. Many seem to approach the subject this way. While you, and most of your readers, give priority to finding truth, these people favor bringing people together and resolving conflict. After all, “Why can’t scientists and religious people get along?” Our answer: “Because they have conflicting beliefs.”

    • ploubere
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Not exactly, we don’t “believe” in science, it’s just a method for figuring out what’s real. It’s important to make this distinction, otherwise we’re accused of being just another religion.

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Yes, we have a different meaning for “belief” but religious people often feel their sense of truth is stronger than that we get from science. Their truths come straight from God who made everything whereas scientific truths are provisional and depend on our eyes and brains which are often faulty. Science has been wrong in the past, so will likely be wrong in the future. Scientists even admit that every theory is likely to be overthrown someday.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      “While you, and most of your readers, give priority to finding truth, these people favor bringing people together and resolving conflict.”

      I think you’re being too generous. While there are no doubt a few idealists with such motives, there are also many who just need to have their delusions endorsed by universal acceptance–obviously betraying some fundamental uncertainty of their own convictions, however suppressed it may be.

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        You’re probably right. Now that it is later in the day, I feel less generous. 😉

        • Diane G
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          🙂 Yes, my sense of humanity has its ebbs and surges as well.

      • Sastra
        Posted January 6, 2019 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        I find it’s common among people with strange spiritualities to suffer under the delusion that they (and their philosophy) bring people together out of their great kindness, great empathy, great diplomacy, and great generosity. In other words, their view of themselves as conflict-resolvers is also a delusion they want to see endorsed. It’s often part of a package.

  11. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I am really, really sorry, and I promise to stop reading the Wiki page after I post this:

    Asked by Gardner what he thought of these plagiarisms, Sprunger responded in a letter by saying that if humans wrote the book the plagiarisms would indeed be disturbing but not if it was written by supermortals.

    The 100 ultimatons making an electron was amusing but I very nearly spat a perfectly palatable beer at this point.

    I very much doubt that PCCe’s correspondent is going to come here. We are nice, but no-one is sufficiently nice to avoid offending someone who can seriously recommend this kind of dross.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      So glad that you–and Jerry–investigated this book so we don’t have to. The more you describe, the more I begin to wonder if it’s not some exceptionally elaborate Poe.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Sadly, I don’t think it is… despite saying I wasn’t going near this thing, I have been listening to it (the ‘papers’ each have an audio player that appears to be a direct reading).

        If it is a Poe then it is the single most elaborate instance I have ever encountered. The Oahspe New Bible, which I encountered as a PDF some years back (available online here) has certain similarities (not in terms of what it says, just its battiness) and I thought that was a spoof when I was sent the link many years ago. The web version is quite slick *, so they are obvously as active as the Urantians.

        * Slick is a relative term, but it isn’t the 1998 style site they used to have.

        • Diane G
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 1:39 am | Permalink

          That Oahspe sites, um, interesting… Thanks!

          Now that I think about it, I wonder if Scientology can be considered as essentially a Poe.

  12. BJ
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, I won’t comment on the “book” because it seems there’s really no point, but I will respond to this: “Well, this person assumes that I WANT the gap between science and religion to be bridged, but nowhere in that article do I express that desire.”

    Do you wish to bridge that gap? If not, what is the alternative? I see none.

    We should want to bridge this gap. We will not eradicate religion from the world, neither in our lifetimes nor, I think, in all of humanity’s future. Religion will always be a dominant force in culture and belief among the masses, in one form or another. Most people will always look to the stars and think there must be something more to the world. It seems to me that the only way forward is to bridge the gap through scientific education and allowing people to believe in god/s and other supernatural nonsense without mockery, so long as they also accept the scientific facts of the physical world and do not use supernatural beliefs to try and impose rules on others, nor to fight with one another.

    Science and religion can and should be bridged, though it will be a very, very long process, and one we will not see completed in our lifetimes.

    Furthermore, I have never been convinced that eradicating religion from the world would be a good thing. Far too many billions of people rely on religion for social cohesion, culture, and a general keeping of the peace. When an overarching institution that holds together a large group of diverse peoples or a society suddenly break down, people do not suddenly live in harmony; they split into smaller factions, which usually results in fighting. Again, this forces me to the conclusion that the most responsible and likely scenario for minimizing the damage that religion can cause is to bridge the gap between it and science, thus minimizing the damage of religious beliefs about the physical world and, by extension, minimizing the fighting it causes, as religious belief would be relegated to the supposed world beyond the physical (e.g. if one has no reason to believe that the other person in front of them is a heretic for having a different view of the supernatural world, there is no reason to fight them over it).

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I think the problem is that science can’t move to bridge the gap and religion won’t (though they would say they can’t), so the divide is essentially permanent. This comes with the usual plenty of religious people embrace science caveat but that requires cognitive dissonance on their part. The scientists, aside from the obvious ones, will always ask the awkward question, “where is the evidence for your belief?”.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      The northern European countries refute your central premise. Reality-based worldviews do work, and by most measures, they work better than fantasy-based ones.

      • BJ
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        They don’t “refute” anything. They are slowly moving to a different model, but (1) there’s still plenty of religious belief there, and (2) you can’t possibly compare northern Europeans to the Middle East, Africa, South America, much of North America, much of Asia, etc. You can’t just say “well, it works in this one small place, so it should work everywhere.” People, cultures, and environments are different, have different needs, and develop in different ways.

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          I don’t say it should work everywhere now, But it does work, that’s the main point. And it is gaining ground, though as others have noted in these comments, the demographics may be against this being a long-term trend. I don’t know about that part.

          • BJ
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

            Hey, I’d like to believe as much as anyone that the world could one day move past religion and, in addition, do so without some other sorts of tribalism taking its place. I wish I could believe that, but I can’t. Trust me when I say that I would be much happier if I could 🙂

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      I pretty much disagree with every point you make.

      To bridge science and religion is to embrace cognitive dissonance. No thanks.

      I don’t think it is inevitable that religion will fade as a force in the world. Sure, not by much in our lifetime. However, the trend for thousands of years seems to be away from religiosity.

      I am all for social cohesion, etc. but many wars have a religious component so it isn’t always cohesive. Sure, if we barred all the churches overnight we would lose a lot of social cohesion but that’s not what we are considering. Instead, cohesion occurs in non-religious ways. Does a dinner party really suffer much if we don’t say grace first?

      • BJ
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        “However, the trend for thousands of years seems to be away from religiosity.”

        First, I do not agree in any way that believing in both science and religion is cognitive dissonance. As I made explicit in my post, science deals with facts of the physical world. Religious belief might not follow the scientific method (i.e. it requires “faith”), but so long as you can get people to relegate that willingness to have “faith” to the supernatural (something that has no bearing on the physical world or science and thus does not exist), and so long as you can get them to reject religious mandates that contradict the physical world by increasing their scientific literacy, there is no cognitive dissonance involved. In fact, to say there is is to say that the enormous number of brilliant and important scientists over the years who believed in god had some kind of cognitive dissonance. Even if you believe this to be true (which I think I just showed logically it is not), what does it matter? They were scientists, were not religious zealots, and their supernatural beliefs did not damage their scientific pursuits or general intellectual abilities.

        “I don’t think it is inevitable that religion will fade as a force in the world. Sure, not by much in our lifetime. However, the trend for thousands of years seems to be away from religiosity.”

        This is only true some comparatively small and specific parts of the world: mainly, first-world nations with good scientific literacy among the populace. For the rest of the world, it isn’t true at all.

        I don’t think your dinner party comment has any relevance, but i’m pretty sure you’re just being snarky. I’m talking about group/societal cohesion.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          First, I do not agree in any way that believing in both science and religion is cognitive dissonance.

          What would you call it? So many of the tenets of many religions directly contradict facts as they stand.

          • Mark R.
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

            I copied and almost pasted that sentence as well, and I was going to say pretty much the same thing.

            NOMA comes to mind…

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              NOMA implies that religion can address things that science can’t, so that isn’t really valid. More like NTTSM (never the twain shall meet)…

              I am sure the religious would like to say that something like the meaning of life falls within religion’s purview, but the answers that they provide can never be anything other than an opinion or someone’s revelation.

              • Mark R.
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but I also see it as a way Gould tried to bridge religion and science by trying to create two otherwise innocuous world views. Perhaps I went too far in presuming he was trying to create two world views that can exist in one brain.

              • Serendipitydawg
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                @Mark R – we are too deep for me to reply, so:

                I also see it as a way Gould tried to bridge religion and science

                I cannot disagree with this but I regard NOMA as a mistake and an abberation that simply provides succour to the religious… in many respects I feel it is to blame for the evolution can’t explain how life started and science can’t explain the sense of wonder we have in a rainbow brands* of BS that regularly appears in so many fora.

                *Other brands of BS are readily available.

          • BJ
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

            I think I made it pretty clear here how the two are not mutually exclusive:

            “First, I do not agree in any way that believing in both science and religion is cognitive dissonance. As I made explicit in my post, science deals with facts of the physical world. Religious belief might not follow the scientific method (i.e. it requires “faith”), but so long as you can get people to relegate that willingness to have “faith” to the supernatural (something that has no bearing on the physical world or science and thus does not exist), and so long as you can get them to reject religious mandates that contradict the physical world by increasing their scientific literacy, there is no cognitive dissonance involved.”

            To believe in the supernatural is in no way dissonant with a belief in science and facts provided by science. Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the supernatural, so it’s literally impossible for there to be dissonance in the case as I outlined it. I feel like everyone arguing with me about this point just skipped over or forgot about the part of my post I just emphasized.

            Unless someone can explain how science disproves/has disproved the existence of supernatural phenomena (e.g. god/s), it’s not possible for there to be any cognitive dissonance when it comes to believing in both supernatural phenomena and science.

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

              Unless someone can explain how science disproves/has disproved the existence of supernatural phenomena (e.g. god/s), it’s not possible for there to be any cognitive dissonance when it comes to believing in both supernatural phenomena and science.

              In the first instance you need a supernatural phenomenon to investigate, and they don’t tend to come in that form. Spoon bending, along with its related b’l’cks, was investigated and that revealed how bad scientists are at stopping con artists gaming their tests. I don’t think Randi has ever had to pony up the million either.

              The cognitive dissonance I am talking about is the type that a Catholic scientist such as a biologist must have. There is zero possibility of the kind of genetic bottle-neck that dogma requires in the form of Adam and Eve, so how can the Catholic reconcile the scientific evidence that undermines one of the central doctrines that Adam and Eve were real people that spawned us? They would also be fully aware of the required size of the population that could produce our line of evolution (which the church decided does happen, though I believe they have caveats that require some sort of divine gene controls, possibly Windoze™ dialog sliders).

              • BJ
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

                But…you were responding to my initial comment. Perhaps your comment was a refutation of someone who believes there’s no cognitive dissonance in believing that the story of Noah’s Ark is real but also believes all science is real, but that’s not what I was discussing.

                With regard to supernatural phenomena, I again made clear the kind I was talking about: the most common religious phenomena (e.g. god/s). Science can neither prove nor disprove that god or gods exist, etc. Ergo, there is no cognitive dissonance in believing, for example, in science and in a Christian god who will send you to heaven or hell based on how you live your life/faith in Jesus/whatever.

              • Serendipitydawg
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

                You are also correct that in the general run of things, the everyday believer won’t experience dissonance on a daily basis as a result of their belief. They have a remarkable ability to assign the good stuff to their particular deity and when bad stuff happens, resolve it with a my deity saved this puppy while ignoring the 100 people engulfed in whatever disaster it was.

                I personally know people who have scientific knowledge (not scientists, but they needed to conform to the norm to get the A level) who maintain more than one viewpoint owing to their religion; that is cognitive dissonance and is probably more common that you think among educated people. There is also a significant tranche of respondents to surveys who, when asked what they do if knowledge conflicts with dogma, reject knowledge. So, yes, not everyone has to live with dissonance, they can simply abandon rationality.

            • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

              It is not science’s responsibility to disprove the existence of the supernatural. Instead, it is on the one positing the existence to prove that it is not just a figment of their imagination. If I told you there’s a dragon hiding behind the moon, it wouldn’t be on you to disprove it. Instead you would justified in demanding that I prove it.

              • BJ
                Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                That has nothing to do with the point at hand. I don’t believe in the supernatural. The point is whether one can believe in things like god/s while still being a firm believer in science, while still having no cognitive dissonance.

              • Posted January 6, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                Gods are supernatural, aren’t they?

              • BJ
                Posted January 6, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

                …yes. And? Is your point that, since it’s on the believer to provide evidence of the supernatural, that somehow makes it cognitive dissonance if they believe in science but still believe in god? Because the latter doesn’t seem to follow logically from the former.

              • Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

                Yes, they believe in something (God) for which there is no proof, something a good scientist should be unwilling to do. This is cognitive dissonance pure and simple.

            • Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

              So, that bolded part.

              Yes, if there wasn’t anything that causes cognitive dissonance, there’d be no cognitive dissonance.

              But, sorry (for you), the supernatural does contradict the physical world. Or, rather, science tells us that there is a vanishing small possibility that the supernatural is real.

              /@

              • BJ
                Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                “Or, rather, science tells us that there is a vanishing small possibility that the supernatural is real.”

                So, again, one cannot claim that a belief in god and science is cognitive dissonance. Unless science proves the lack of a god, one cannot say that a scientist who believes in god/s suffers from cognitive dissonance.

                And the point of the bolded part of my post was that, if we can increase scientific education, we might be able to reduce belief in the more outlandish claims of religious texts, like Moses parting the sea, or the story of Noah’s Ark. Believing in both science and those things would indeed be cognitive dissonance.

              • Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

                That’s just begging the question.

                /@

              • BJ
                Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                And don’t be sorry for me for your opinion in your second paragraph. I have no belief in the supernatural. But a supernatural belief in something like god/s does not “contradict the physical world.” The entire point is that it is entirely separate from it. Can you give an explanation of how a belief in the existence of god/s “contradict[s] the physical world”?

              • Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

                Any claim that an immaterial God can have any effect on the physical world is falsified by physics.

                /@

        • Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          Ok, perhaps there was a little snark but I am also serious about my dinner party comment. I take issue with the idea that religion provides some kind of unique, irreplaceable social cohesion. If religion and its cohesion is removed, it will be replaced by other activities that have a good chance of being more cohesive. One of the biggest problem with religions is that there are so many that disagree at some level. They compete in a sometimes destructive way. Secular social cohesion has a better chance at avoiding conflict.

          • BJ
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

            Religion was very obviously created to induce social cohesion, and it worked. So long as we have a world that has countries and those countries often have diverse ethnic groups, a uniting religion is probably the best source of social cohesion for such countries. If you look at the most secular countries that have maintained their social cohesion, their populations tend to be far more homogeneous in both ethnicity and philosophy than many highly religious countries. The social cohesion provided by religion (or some other overarching philosophy and system of values) is usually most helpful in large countries with diverse populations.

            Of course, we need to also reduce the tensions between religions, and I believe scientific education can go a long way toward that.

            • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

              It is not controversial that religion has produced social cohesion in the past but also its opposite. There are many other ways to produce social cohesion and my hope is that in the future we adopt those that lack the negatives that religion brings with it. I went to church when a young teenager for a very short time. I enjoyed the social cohesion (singing, friendship) but I didn’t like the religious aspect at all.

              • BJ
                Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:15 am | Permalink

                I hope you’re right. I fear you aren’t. But I’ll be praying for it 😛

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      I am considering a notion that I am ashamed to say, but here it is: better educated people tend to be secular and have fewer children, while the less educated are more often religius and they have more children. This contributes to the lasting power of religion in our species.
      I don’t like having this thought, but I don’t see that it is wrong.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I think that is a byproduct. So many religions encourage the production of children and believers comply expecting that their deitiy will be pleased.

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        I agree (I have just commented below in the same line, before seeing your comment).

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          Happened to me yesterday, welcome to the club!

          🙂

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        I think it is just a matter of statistics. It should be no surprise to scientists that education leads to less belief in religion. As to , Having fewer children is caused by better economic status ==> better health care ==> lower infant mortality ==> less drive to create “replacement” children or for working on the farm. Nothing to feel bad about.

        • Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          Which country has had the most effective birth control program?

          Iran. But populous Asian countries aren’t far behind.

          Globally, birth rates have fallen dramatically since 1965.

          See here.

          /@

          • Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            As Pinker says, this tracks worldwide increases in health and economic well-being.

        • BJ
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          “It should be no surprise to scientists that education leads to less belief in religion.”

          Has it been proven that this is causation, rather than correlation? Because it could easily be that the better educated also tend to come from more secular environments, and/or have higher IQs, and I can think of various other confounding factors that would need to be controlled for before this is considered conclusive.

          • Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

            Causation would be difficult to prove. Besides, all these things go together. Becoming a scientist obviously requires a certain amount of intelligence and colleges where people learn to be scientists are generally in urban areas. Also, people who don’t require proof of things probably don’t go into science.

            I think it is much easier and productive to focus on the cognitive dissonance (or its lack) rather than the causes leading to someone choosing to become a scientist. It seems pretty clear to me that believing in the supernatural is inconsistent with the scientific point of view.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      My personal prediction is that in about 100 years, secular societies will be engulfed by religion, mostly primitive, unreformed, violent religion – for demographic reasons. So I think the best we can do in practical terms is to try and preserve as much as possible from the achievements of science and technology. I am glad that my job is to teach science, and I try to avoid religion altogether, though I admit I bring it occasionally, because both I and the students are human.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your basic analysis, but not with your “solution.” Religion is essentially tribalism writ large and tribalism is tenaciously hard-wired into our genomes. I don’t see tribalism changing from “we vs. they” to “live and let live” anytime soon, as the former is much more adaptive in the scope of human lifetimes. I see no solution beyond just the temporary stasis that results from such things as Mutually Assured Destruction. (Spelled out as it seems the acronym’s become less & less common since the Cold War. Which we’re re-entering, BTW.)

      • Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        While, as you say, tribalism is in our genes, it has been shown over and over that it can be subverted to relatively benign targets. We just need to get the bigots to adopt a sports team instead of a race, sex, or whatever.

        • Diane G
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 12:47 am | Permalink

          I do like that solution! 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        I agree that it’s not a solution and that there’s almost zero chance that mankind will ever reach a point where it is no longer tribalistic, and often violently so. I do think, however, that spreading scientific literacy has a chance of reducing religious intolerance between religions.

        • Diane G
          Posted January 6, 2019 at 12:48 am | Permalink

          Something that’s been eagerly expected ever since the Enlightenment…

          • BJ
            Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

            Damn it, Diana, you’re stomping out the teeny tiny embers of hope I have left in my cold, cynical heart. It might now truly be dead!

            • Diane G
              Posted January 7, 2019 at 2:06 am | Permalink

              Welcome to the club.

              (And thanks for the correction below. 🙂 )

          • BJ
            Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

            *Diane

            Sorry 😦

    • lkr
      Posted January 6, 2019 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      BJ: You do realize that fewer people each year can see stars when they look at night?

      • BJ
        Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        um, yes. Why?

  13. GBJames
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow. The Urantia Book. I remember encountering this in the 1970’s.

    We’re in solid wack-a-loon territory now!

    • Mark R.
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, maybe it reads better with a head-full of acid.

      • Diane G
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Which might be the real solution to all our problems… 😉

  14. Posted January 5, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Well that closed the gap… between religiosity and insanity.

    • Diane G
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      😀

  15. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    The book is clearly a bridge to nowhere.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Α+ 🙂

  16. Mike Anderson
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I have found an ancient manuscript, full of the higher truths lost to the modern world, stories of good and evil, light and dark. More than a thousand pages of wisdom are contained in this manuscript, divided into 3 volumes. Volume one is called “The Fellowship of the Ring”, volume two, “The Two Towers”, and volume three, “The Return of the King”.

    I highly recommend these ancient manuscripts to all those that seek wisdom.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      I know this one… I think research shows it was written by somebody R.R. something… George?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      If cultural memory is lost after some acopolypse, and if a copy is found after a thousand years, it may seriously be viewed as actual history and a religion may form around it. Later resulting of course in a number of bloody religious wars over weighty matters such as whether Aragorn will one day return.

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        If the “cargo cult” could happen, then this could happen.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I think you mean the Silmarilion. In LOTR, there is more action than wisdom.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I *know* it’s all true. I’ve seen the documentary movie!

      cr

  17. Roger
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    If one encounters the book it is recommended that one close the gap between the front cover and the back cover.

  18. Mark R.
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Ray Bradbury when it comes to burning books, but can’t we make some exceptions?

  19. Geoff Toscano
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    David Icke, eat your heart out!

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      I also thought of the human-mimicking reptilians.

  20. Roo
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    The book I won’t comment on, because it makes no sense to me and I assume it’s a fringe type thing (Although that’s how I tend to feel about Jordan Peterson, and people consider him a brilliant bridge between religion and science when I can’t make sense of 90% of what he says about religion, other than it involves lots of expletives and something about archetypes, so who knows?)

    I think the question of whether or not there is a bridge between religion and science is largely a semantic one. If you mean ‘is there a bridge between specific dogmas, meant in the most literal sense, and science’, then the question is almost nonsensical as ‘religion’ includes a number of mutually exclusive claims from different religions. If you frame the question differently I think there are many valid potential bridges, but at that point many people would consider it a matter of goalpost shifting.

    To my mind, the most promising point of connection between science and religion involves subjective states, inner transformation, possible states of consciousness, and so on. I do think there is wisdom contained in various religions on these topics that was either never present or much less known in more secular contexts. I think the difficulty is that in many cases specifics, proposed-as-empirically-true dogma and potentially universally helpful practices are deeply intertwined to the point of being almost inseparable. Based on nothing but anecdotal evidence, experience, and observation, I feel that ‘metta mediation’ is a great secular practice, and yet ‘love for Christ’ seems to do the job faster, with more intensity, and more effectively for some people. I assume the same is true of people in various other religions, so that in some sense you don’t get the subjective results without the dogma. (I consider the ‘third most promising’ point of connection between religion and science to be whether or not various dogmas are literally true. I am open to the idea, albeit not in a way that a religious person would generally like – I am open to it in the same way I’m open to the idea that aliens exist or that there are fairies living somewhere in a multiverse and so on. Gurus in places such as India have been claiming various miracles for eons now, I won’t say the idea doesn’t intrigue me even if I consider it mostly a hopeful fantasy. But the thing is, I think within the context of religion, the empirical is only important *because of* the subjective. If you tell a devout Christian that an Indian guru walked on water, they will not be overcome with love and devotion, they will either go “Huh?” or claim it’s witchcraft or something. So while a lot of emphasis is placed on this or that scripture being literally true, I don’t think it’s actually the literal truth of such scripture that really even make them important to people. Without something involving a subjective response or altered state of consciousness, Jesus would read, empirically, as a talented magician and moral teacher with a knack for parables.)

    I’d say the second most promising bridge is in that of philosophy. Materialism vs. idealism vs. some midpoint between them and so on. Second most promising because it is still, admittedly, very very very speculative. But, people really are studying things such as veridical perception in NDEs now, and there have been a couple of fairly well documented cases that were intriguing, if nothing else. (I suppose even if that were 100% verified it could still be totally compatible with materialism, now that I think of it – but at any rate it could still have interesting links to age old philosophical questions.)

    So, as with sooooo many things in religion, I think it boils down to “What do you mean by that?”. What do you mean by ‘religion’, by ‘God’, by ‘son of God’, by ‘soul’, by ‘truth’ (in the context of ‘finding truth in scripture’) and on and on.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      It is also somewhat worrying and alarming that Jordan Peterson can be quite a “poster boy” for certain camps, not necessarily for the right or impeccable reasons.

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      A TL;DR on Jordan Peterson on atheism: He sets up a strawman and his fans lap it up.

      -Ryan

    • Roo
      Posted January 5, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Regarding Jordan Peterson – I really can’t comment one way or the other because I literally have no idea what the man is saying (at least on theistic topics) the majority of the time. And I’m not a super literal type who simply struggles with abstraction – usually I err on the side of being overly abstract and symbolic. But I cannot for the life of me figure out what the guy’s views even are, much less if I agree with them, and I find it really weird that the apparently scientifically minded find him so convincing (if I remember correctly, he makes claims about evolution that seem pretty unfounded as well, involving archetypes.)

      • Moishe
        Posted January 6, 2019 at 5:37 am | Permalink

        Yesterday I watched a short clip of Peterson in a debate with Dillahunty. Seven minutes convinced me that Peterson was a supercilious and vacuous dweeb, somewhat given to solipsisms.

        Needless to say, Dillahunty was not impressed.

  21. Posted January 5, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    One word comes to mind:

    Strange.

    I’m not about to waste whatever amount of vision remains to me (age related macular degeneration) on ploughing through two thousand pages of what seems to be total gibberish, though.

  22. Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    What if science and philosophy were to convince us (discover) that the Biosphere was actually One Big Organism and that Persons had an important role in that organism and depended upon it in such a way that certain values, goals and morals became…well, Natural To Us?

    What if philosophy and science were to convince us (discover) that Having A Mind was more a Social Activity than strictly an individual electrical event occurring between each individual’s ears. Sure, this social and historical Mind, depends on individual brains, but what if individual brains have to become “infested with Memes” and thus exist socially and and historically For Them/It To Think?

    Now, if these two things were to happen maybe today’s Hyper-Individualism, Greed, and Moral and Intellectual Relativism would diminish. And that Relativism includes all the kinds of Supernaturalisms because that stuff also just comes to ‘to each her own’ because it is interpersonally defenseless.

    Maybe if these things happened, Intelligent Forward-Thinking Persons would then start to take A More Reverential Attitude toward Each Other and The Earth. They might promote World Peace — Politically and Ecologically. They might even learn to live it themselves and in their communities. Would Pro-Nature, Pro-Human Community, Rituals even be possible?

    Dr. C, (and anyone else) would these things count as — Kind Of — “bridging the gap between religion and science”? Seems like it might even be a worthwhile goal.

    (PS, sorry for all the caps, I hope they are not annoying; and also what’s your take on this biosphere as an organism thing? It was, after all, suggested by such an esteemed commentator as Dr. Lewis Thomas a number of decades ago.) Thanks

    • Posted January 5, 2019 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      It is hard for me to see how recognizing the biosphere as an organism would change anything. I suppose it would depend on what that meant specifically. Perhaps I just can’t imagine it. It certainly doesn’t reproduce or eat like any other organism we know, just to look at two typical organism properties. I suspect that “earth as organism” has been an idea that has been invented many times. It’s usually just used as an analogy and not really any kind of scientific claim.

    • GBJames
      Posted January 6, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      What if it was discovered that peace-loving invisible pigs live in trees in cities all around the world?

      Some hypotheticals don’t really help us understand anything.

      • Posted January 6, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        I’d love to see that painting.

        • Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Here you are!

          You can just sense their porcine beneficence!

          /@

          • Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

            I like the painting. I guess I had forgotten that we’re talking about INVISIBLE pigs.

            • GBJames
              Posted January 7, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

              Invisibility typifies the peaceful arboreal subspecies.

            • Posted January 8, 2019 at 2:07 am | Permalink

              😄

              /@

      • Posted January 8, 2019 at 1:56 am | Permalink

        The question was, Could Sci and Religion be reconciled in some way.
        Mine was a proposal of reconciliation.
        It didn’t involve supernatural beings but did involve reverence and a larger participation.

        Where are the “invisible pigs”? That the biosphere could be one living unit? Or that
        a mind is something more than a thing in your head?
        Maybe you just have to look harder; maybe there is something in the trees that your missing. You just need an intuition pump.

        Drawing lines to border-off life forms is not so obvious or cut and dry as many people think. In fact, its pretty amazing that Persons so far away and so different can communicate on all these topics. I tried not to be offended by your comment. And I did like the painting.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 8, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          The invisible pigs are components of the questions you ask for the purpose (I presume) of clarifying some point. The rhetorical questions contribute nothing, IMO.

          I leave it to you to look harder for the pigs since you seem to think they might be there.

  23. Posted January 6, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Well, earth as an organism is harder to imagine. Our Individualistic ideology is part of what gets in the way. If it is an organism, I guess we would say it ‘eats’ sunlight (like a plant) and ‘reproduces’ if, as Neil sang (roughly), “the chosen ones … were put into a silver seed… and sent off to find a new home in the sun”.

    Dan Dennett suggests at one point that humans are the newly evolved “nervous system” for that organism. Using our “far seeing abilities” to look out for the whole.
    Though, Lewis Thomas wrote that the Earth as organism is only “loosely organized” by comparison to many other organisms, but I guess there is a range of ‘tightness’ of togetherness and that through evol some lineages have worked at becoming more and more tightly organized with systems to oversee the lack of indep of the parts.

    But what about the Philosophy of Mind stuff? That is how Humans, as persons, are the most social creature of all. Values and goals do exist in Nature Fondly-Thought-Of, even Revered, but now I’m getting Kind Of religious.

    Maybe Science can become more religious in its emotional attachment to our discovered connections to the Bigger Things Beyond Us. (Please don’t take me as a ‘loon’ by presuming that all my transcendental contentions have to be SuperNaturalism. And, the recent discussions on this site and on this topic —-Rel vs Sci —- have been fun! Thanks Paul.)

  24. bobkillian
    Posted January 6, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    If “the executive-headquarters worlds of the Seven Master Spirits” includes single-malt, I could listen to more.

  25. Posted January 6, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    It strikes me that (many of) those who claim that science and religion (and/or supernaturalism) are compatible have something in common with religious (and other) science deniers (creationists, &c.), viz.: Not understanding how robust the results of science are and how far reaching their implications.

    For example:
    • Population genetics rules out the possibility that there ever was a single couple from whom humanity (H. sapiens) descends. → Goodbye Adam and Eve.
    • The Standard Model of physics plus the results from the LHC rule out the possibility of any non-SM force that can interact with matter at human energy scales (aka “The Laws Underlying the Physics of Everyday Life is Completely Understood”). → Goodbye life after death, intercessory spirits, and more.

    /@

    • Diane G
      Posted January 6, 2019 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      *like*

  26. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted January 6, 2019 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps a Raëlian will send an email next. They have a scientific explanation for life on earth. The prophet Raël traveled to the world of the Elohim where he met Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, and Joseph Smith. The Elohim are coming back in 2025 or sometime around then. I met a follower about 15 years ago.


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