Religion and Science
Ivory figurines (Venus of Hole Fels and Lion-Man) indicate that rudimentary religion was first conceived 35,000 years ago by Ice Age cavemen in Western Europe. Hawking and Mlodinow in Grand Design (page 17) describe how spiritual concepts arose: “Ignorance of Nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life … Since the connection between cause and effect was invisible to their eyes, these gods appeared inscrutable, and people at their mercy.” Just as we humans today attribute intentions to strangers we meet, ancient nomads imputed motives to the “assumed entities” behind the forces of Nature (lightning, volcanoes, the sun). If science is the study of Nature, then religion was the first science. But religion postulated the existence of god, heaven, the soul and reincarnation–concepts which confused thus blended Nature with a Super-Natural.
The ancients’ technology consisted only of the naked eye and rudimentary geometry and mathematics–good enough to build temples and pyramids but not good enough to plumb the far reaches of the cosmos. The surreal depiction of the spirit world at Gobekli Tepe 11,600 years ago on temple posts (showing elongated animal and human bodies) and 4,300 years ago in Egypt on tomb walls (showing gods with animal heads and human bodies) attests to the primitive nature of religion during ancient times. These ancient theorists were seeking certainty, but could achieve only belief: in short, they were just guessing. And nobody would expect them to be right or even close if they had to guess about something so complicated. Nor should we guess about something so important.
Then 1,400-2,500 years ago Buddhist, Hindu, Hebrew, Christian and Muslim leaders added their culture’s customs and claims to the ancients’ Super-Natural. Not until 400 years ago when modern day Scientific-Realism originated did humanity develop sophisticated technology to provide different answers than religion to the cosmological questions of how the universe began and when the Earth will end, and the biological questions of how life began and when humans first appeared. Science does not yet have the final answer to the Theory of Everything but it has the best answers to everything else.
Religion and Philosophy
Religion is composed of two parts: 1) a description of reality (god, heaven, the soul and reincarnation), and 2) a philosophical code of right and wrong, and how we humans should treat each other. While science has replaced the religious view of reality with quantum mechanics, relativity, the Big Bang and the expanding universe, scientists cannot challenge the ethical code of religion by drawing subjective moral conclusions from purely objective research. But skeptics can because skepticism is not science. Skepticism is a branch of philosophy in agreement with the reality described by science. Because skepticism is aligned with the scientific view, skepticism is the philosophical extension of science. Thus skeptics have the credentials and credibility to interpret scientific conclusions to define a philosophical moral code of right and wrong, and how we humans should treat each other. More importantly, skeptics have the opportunity/responsibility to do so–to define what might be called Social Realism.
Moral Code of Social Realism
Skeptics could write a book showing just how much sense a purely scientific view makes of the world. The book would show that the scientific view makes more sense than any existing system of belief. To believe in something that science has not proven to exist runs the risk of believing in nothing at all, such as alien UFO’s. To guide behavior by ancient obsolete religious concepts results in the tragedy of wasted lives, such as suicide bombers and their victims.
The book might start with a very brief review of Scientific-Realism’s Nature: 1) a history from the Big Bang to the present day to billions of years into the future, and 2) the six basic building blocks of the universe: matter-energy, space-time, force, entropy, dark matter and dark energy. But the main thrust of the book would be a moral philosophy that is consistent with and supported by scientific principle or research. This book might include but not be limited by your imagination to the following topics:
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Title: The Ethical Principles of Natural Philosophy
Purpose of Humanity: In order to clarify its differences with religion, Social Realism might devise a purpose for humanity.
Finite Human: The overall purpose of each individual might be Maslow’s definition of self-expression, self-realization, and self-actualization. This would provide direction for an individual to make pragmatic decisions to pursue his or her happiness. Less global purposes might mirror the evolution of the human brain:
1) The physiological purpose of the cerebellum is homeostasis;
2) The emotional purpose of the limbic system is two-fold: to guide each person to:
A) Seek the healthy emotions of love from other humans, enjoyment from frivolous/serious pursuits, and hope from achievement of personal goals, and,
B) Relieve the negative emotions of anxiety from stress, fear from threat, anger from frustration, sadness from loss and guilt from unmet responsibilities and unrealistic expectations;
3) The intellectual purpose of the cerebral cortex and frontal lobes is to process information to make good decisions/judgments, to manipulate numbers and communicate words, and to create new ideas, inventions and art.
Infinite Humanity: The purpose of collective humanity might be to perpetuate the species as long as possible, in the short run by attaining peace among nations and in the long run by 1) leaving planet Earth before our Sun’s increasing energy output blasts our oceans and atmosphere into outer space one billion years from now, and, 2) leaving our galaxy before Andromeda smashes into our Milky Way three billion years from now.
Guidelines for Moral Behavior: In order to compete successfully with religion, Social Realism might define moral behavior in three arenas: how to treat 1) other human beings, 2) lower life forms and 3) our Earth environment.
Minister to People’s Emotional Needs: In order to replace religion, Social Realism might have to do what religion does–heal the emotional wounds of people. This will not be easy since religion owns four of the strongest wish fulfilling elixirs–a loving, tolerant god who accepts all sinners, blissful heaven, eternal existence of the soul and reincarnation (reward of a second chance). Social Realism will have to find the best science-based answers to relieve people’s suffering from fear of death, fear of failure, grief from death of a loved one, guilt from misdeeds, low
self-esteem from bullying, social prejudice, civil injustice, etc., etc.
Importance of the Family: An individual’s outcome in adulthood is determined by genes, congenital environment, child/teen nutrition and medical aid, life-style choices and luck. In the future, gene therapy promises to fix bad genes. The damage to lifestyle choices from bad parenting is much harder to identify and repair. Unfortunately “The abused grow up to be the abuser,” à la Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately it is just as easy for a child to learn “I can’t do anything right” as it is to learn “I can do it if I try hard enough,” and just as easy to learn “Nobody loves me” as it is “Everybody likes me.” Thus Social Realism might define the key elements of effective parenting (including no physical punishment such as spanking, and no emotional abuse such as saying “What’s wrong with you?”) and introduce them into secondary school curriculum so all future parents will learn them. Better universal parenting would reduce suicides and gun deaths from psychologically induced mental illness.
Difference between Science and Religion: The book might explain that science is the study of the reality of Nature (what can be measured), whereas religion is the study of a utopian Super-Natural (what can be imagined).
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The End of Faith
Religion isn’t going away on its own any time soon; there are too many people making their living from it to let that happen. If there is to be an end of Surreal-Religion by the ascent of Scientific-Reason, then Realists will have to take an active, leadership role in the Reformation conversion of Believers. Realists will make it happen by offering a brighter future for all humanity in the Here-and-Now compared to Surreal-Religion’s vague promise of some nebulous eternal life in the Hereafter. Reading from their book (described above), Realists’ message is “You only have one existence consisting of conception, birth, growth, reproduction and death, so make it the best experience you can for yourself and others; only your best effort can give you hope.”
Realists and Social Realism should, above all else, be inspirational since people need strong motivation to change: “Do not make small plans for they do not have the power to move men’s hearts.”
Now all we need is an author.
Three Considerations for Social Realists
Position on Social Problems: In order to gain wide acceptance, Realists might take a stand on abortion, poverty, homelessness, divorce, domestic violence, rape, equal pay for men and women, alcoholism, drug addiction and decriminalization, mental illness, gun control, illegal immigration, man-made climate change, health care system, use of embryonic stem cells for medical research and therapy, genetically modified food, terrorism, gay marriage, and civil/social justice for minorities such as Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, LGBT, and divorced fathers (to name some of the major issues of our time).
Congregations: Every Sunday morning Realists might commune together via the internet and draw emotional conviction and renewal from the “power of the crowd.” The service might contain 1) a current event that illustrates a central tenet of Social Realism, 2) an inspirational oration by a recognized guest writer/lecturer, 3) a new scientific discovery, and 4) a donation to the local Realist chapter (a part of which would go to a national Realist organization). Local chapters would be sanctuaries where a salaried or volunteer reverend would minister to people’s emotional needs.
Politics of Social Realism: Social Realists might create a national political organization to lobby Congress to address the group’s needs. Realists’ charitable donations and support for all citizens, both minorities and the silent majority, would help develop a favorable reputation building the image that Realists always take the sensible, reasonable, compassionate, pragmatic and cost-efficient position on social issues.
Now all we need is a leader.