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Lynette Noelle Kelway James

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Fri, Feb 19, 2016 - 01:33 PM

What do Humanists think of top scientists who believe in God and even creationism?

What do Humanists think of top scientists who believe in God and who are even creationists? Would you consider them incapable of critical thinking? What about Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton and even Einstein, who although not believing in a personal god, did believe in a creator and favoured the Quaker movement. Were they all halfwits, imbeciles, unable to form coherent thoughts?



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Steffen Haugk

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Print Tue, Feb 23, 2016 - 05:06 AM
Can I add a few words regarding Galileo and Newton? Due to their upbringing they perceived the world through god-tinted glasses, much like many people today. What were the consequences?

Galileo
The path of the planets around the sun had to describe circles, because the circle is the perfect shape. Galileo did not have to take Kepler seriously, he knew that no god would let the planets fly on egg-shaped paths. Had Galileo not believed in the divine cause of cosmic movements, he might have actually looked at Kepler's findings. He would have been a smarter 'philosopher' (someone who loves knowledge and truth).

His religious understanding of the world also made him think that 'having a hunch' is permissible proof. Trained a lifetime in miracle thinking, he flattered himself imagining that he was inspired or had some insight others lacked. He just knew he was right. When challenged to demonstrate he had to resort to forging experiment results.

Newton
suffered from similar delusions of superiority when he fudged numbers for his sound theory. And rather than assuming the theory describing planetary motion was in some way incomplete, he postulated that god needs to wind up his watch from time to time, as Leibniz put it sarcastically.

Newton, the brilliant mind, the genius, wasted most of his time and effort not only on alchemy, but also on numerology, occultism and finding hidden messages in the text of the bible. What we would call his greatest achievements, and what he is known for today, was probably less important to him than rediscovering long-forgotten knowledge. He was a true follower of magical thinking. He might have changed his religious beliefs, but the core remained: the belief that magic is real.



What magical thinking does for you:

• Making assumptions about the nature of reality based on the presumed intentions of a god. As an example, builders made the assumption that a semicircular arch must be the strongest there is. It had to be.

• Believing in divine inspiration. There is indeed inspiration. But don't believe that there is no need to question your own ideas, maybe because you think you are special, and god talks to you. When Mendeleev dreamed of a certain arrangement of element symbols, he did not scribble it down and shout "Here it is!" He scribbled it down, sorting elements by known properties and confirmed that such an arrangement was indeed helpful and thus had validity. Don't forget, intuition is recognition. It does not come out of nowhere, which is what miracle believers maintain.

• Wasting your time.

• Wishful thinking

PS: Kepler
Kepler was no better. He believed he had discovered god's plan of the universe, invoking Platonic solids as the most perfect spacial shapes. (Wishful thinking?) Kepler spend time and effort on reconciling bible text with heliocentrism.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Print Fri, Feb 19, 2016 - 01:48 PM
Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton were from an age where science was just starting to explain what the gods used to explain—they lived in a very different world without access to the kind of knowledge we have today, so I absolutely do not fault them for their beliefs.

What do Humanists think of top scientists who believe in God and who are even creationists? Would you consider them incapable of critical thinking?

The existence of God is not a scientific question. The best knowledge of science and the scientific method can do is fill in the god gaps that are a result of a lack of education. For example, does petitionary prayer work? No. As a scientist intimately familiar with the research in this area, this one clear area where God does not show up. Did God create the universe 6000 years ago? No. Any 6th grader should have enough knowledge to understand this, but any earth-based scientist should certainly know this. The examples go on. The bottom line is that the more scientific and critical thinking is applied, the less of a need for a God, and those claims of God acting in the universe are far better explained naturally (scientifically). This is why scientists as a group are far more atheistic than non-scientists (source: http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/).

What about those scientists who believe in a god? As long as their beliefs are not based on a misunderstanding of science (e.g., creationism), good for them. There are many psychological reasons as to why people believe in all sorts of things to which there is no/weak evidence. This doesn't make people stupid; it just makes them human.
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Print Fri, Feb 19, 2016 - 04:57 PM
Were they all halfwits, imbeciles, unable to form coherent thoughts?
Ugh. Lynette, why do you persist in these abusive insinuations? Reasonable, intelligent, informed and sincere people can disagree without saying these kinds of things.

What do Humanists think of top scientists who believe in God and who are even creationists?
I personally think that they got some things right... and something else wrong. Which happens to all of us. There are many scientists who compartmentalize their religious faith away from the work that they do as scientists. As long as their non-evidential faith does not bleed over into other areas of their research, they do just fine, I'm sure.

This question is a non-issue for Humanists, really. Scientists, for example, working on finding the Higgs Boson probably spend very little time worrying about one another's religious beliefs. I think, especially given the way that you broached the issue, you think that Humanists *should* have a problem with scientists who are theists. Unless they're young earth creationists (few are) who think creationism is a scientific theory, their religious beliefs hardly matter at all.


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Print Mon, Feb 22, 2016 - 01:45 PM
I believe if Galileo or Newton were alive today they would see things differently. Evolution is not only biological, but also intellectual. The great minds you mention lived during a less technological advanced time. I'm sure it was very progressive (in those days) not not believe in god or some deity.

I consider them capable of much critical thinking - after-all they must have applied much reasoning towards their passions to achieve such success in their respective fields of study. If they would have contributed their minds towards religion/spirituality, they might have come up with some of the conclusions progressive thinkers own today...but they pretty much adopted the consensus around them (probably).


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Neil Stahl
Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 09:50:13 AM
What do Humanists think of top scientists who believe in God and who are even creationists?
That's two questions, of course. The majority of people around the world are brought up to believe in a god, or occasionally gods. It's not surprising that belief would persist. The pleasant surprise is that the total lack of real evidence for any god brings so many people to doubt or deny the existence of such a thing.

As for creationism in its classical form, the evidence against that is so strong any scientist who meets that evidence in his or her work should have a very hard time continuing to believe in creationism. It may be a few are afraid that if they don't they will suffer for it, and thus don't let themselves think about what that evidence implies. I have a lot of pity for such people; their parents and/or clerics have a lot to answer for. But of course there are some scientific fields where the overwhelming evidence against creationism is irrelevant so if they were taught to believe in it they well might continue to.

And finally there's the idea an agent existed at the beginning of the universe which started the universe going and left it alone. That's incompatible with several major religions but could be called creationism and it would be hard or impossible to disprove, though some multiverse hypotheses make such an agent clearly unnecessary.

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Lynette Noelle Kelway James
Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 02:15:04 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I did actually say that Einstein did NOT believe in a personal God but not to worry. He did, according to works I have read about his life, believe in some sort of creator. What I want to know is why you feel it is OK for scientists to believe in God but not ordinary mortals like me? I think I am as capable of critical thinking as any scientist so why do I get rather rude comments from certain contributors (NOT you) implying I cannot do so. I think I am correct in saying that Francis Collins believes in God and creation BECAUSE of science and what he has discovered. He is not alone in his views. I must admit I found it very surprising that so many young scientists believed in God as one would have assumed the reverse would be the case. I find it amusing to see how many candidates for the forthcoming elections suddenly find a deep belief in God. Not so the case in England where they don't like talking about their faith in general.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 02:42:02 PM
I apologize for misreading your question about personal gods.

Let's not get lost in semantics here. My "good for them" comment was another way of saying I don't care about some unknown scientist's personal religious beliefs as long as it does not interfere with the facts of science. I also don't care what you believe. You came here asking questions, so we are answering. I wouldn't show up knocking on your door asking you to not believe in God. Your subjective views on "so many young scientists" who believe in God is irrelevant to the objective data that scientists are far less likely to believe in God - especially younger ones. Candidates use God in America to win the "evangelical vote". It is a serious pandering technique that seems to be necessary still given the percentage of Christians in the USA.

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Lynette Noelle Kelway James
Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 05:28:22 PM
@Bo BennettThe Pew Research Center poll of scientists also found that levels of religious faith vary according to scientific specialty and age. For instance, chemists are more likely to believe in God (41%) than those who work in the other major scientific fields. Meanwhile, younger scientists (ages 18-34) are more likely to believe in God or a higher power than those who are older.

, PhD: I appears you have not read the statistics properly regarding younger scientists and how much more likely they are to believe in God than older ones unless I have misunderstood your answer.

The reason I am asking these questions is that I really do want to know why it is that Humanists and Atheists have this problem with Christians and why they are trying to get Christianity, or the teaching of it , banned in schools and certain public places. Why do you think it does any harm if it is only teaching certain moral values? I could understand if it was teaching "an eye for an eye" for instance but it's not ; it is speaking about love, tolerance, self-control and everything that should lead to a decent society. So what is the problem? I don't mind at all that you don't believe in a superior power and I certainly wouldn't come to your house to try to change your mind - only if you invited me to do so.

So many have been helped and have found meaning in life when they have found Christianity. Isn't that a good thing? Surely you can't really deny that it is. As I said before, I believe Humanists are good, decent people and that it is just a shame they can't hold their beliefs and let others get on with theirs. Then all would be well.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 08:53:53 PM
@Lynette Noelle Kelway James: Again, sorry for the misunderstanding. If you compare young scientists with older scientists, according to the same Pew report, younger scientists are more likely to believe in a god than older scientists. This is likely due to indoctrination and that the effects of such indoctrination can take a long time to be undone. As I mentioned, as one becomes more educated in science, the need for gods and magical beings are replaced with the discoveries of science. You appear to be making the assumption that the younger generation knows something the older generation does not, rather than the opposite. My misunderstanding was thinking you were claiming that younger scientists were more religious than non-scientists.

I really do want to know why it is that Humanists and Atheists have this problem with Christians and why they are trying to get Christianity, or the teaching of it , banned in schools and certain public places.

Islam has many great teachings as well if you cherry-pick the Koran. I and others have demonstrated that Jesus' teachings were a mixed bag of love and hatred. Can you honestly say that you have read the whole Bible? (Yes, I have) Christians believe that Jesus IS God, and as one author puts it, God is the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. How do people know what parts of the Bible to follow and what is horrible advice? There are larger moral foundations at work here. This is what needs to be taught - not blind obedience to book or a god as described in an old book. We don't need to teach religion—we can simply teach the values we want our youth to adopt and leave the rest. Further, I cannot stress enough the importance of intrinsic morality vs. threats of punishment and promises of rewards for behavior. These kinds of extrinsic motivators are far less effective in the long run. As people begin to give up belief in magical invisible beings, they no longer have a foundation for morality. This is why the foundation must be internal, i.e., it feels good to be kind, golden rule, etc.

Yes, so many have found meaning in Christianity, as well as many other religions, no religions, friendships, etc. I am not an anti-theist (most Humanists aren't) who thinks nobody should believe in the gods. I am, however, a strong opponent of government pushing religion in our public schools for all the reasons already mentioned.

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