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The God Bucket

16 April 2009 3 Comments
The God Bucket

I read an article recently which attempted to make the argument that religion and science are deep down intrinsically linked. You can read this article here [LINK].

The article is filled with logical fallacies, the most basic being the redefinition of “God”. Most faiths define god as a sentient super being, who hears our every thought. Something who must constantly be glorified. Who, when we die will weigh up the good deeds vs the bad deeds and punish us or reward us accordingly, for all eternity. The article re-defines god as “that which is not limited by whatever limits the universe”.

Religion is a rigid set of traditions, beliefs and dogmata which have been informally handed down from generation to generation. Most religions have splinter groups which split off when the core group gets too large. There’s almost always a single authoritative leader in the group who lays things out for others to follow. Religion rejects new information and anything incompatible with the established practices is labeled “doubt” and ends up in the “sin” column.

Science on the other hand presents a means by which we can examine the world around us. It claims no final answers and there are no single authoritative leaders. There are no hard and fast facts, only theories which vary by the degree to which there is evidence supporting them. In some cases the evidence is overwhelming yet it’s still a theory (e.g. The Theory of Evolution). As new information is uncovered it’s evaluated, tested, documented and peer-reviewed. In fact science itself is already a meta-system! Unfortunately most people are not clear on what science actually is or how the community operates.

If evidence supports the re-writing of a theory then that theory is re-examined, re-tested and in some cases thrown out and replaced with a better, more encompassing theory. In this way science evolves and moves forward. Religion can never move forward as it would require admitting that the definition of god or the belief system is inaccurate.

Taking a closer look at the neurology behind it you might ask well why do we even have religion if it makes such little sense? First you must realise you’re an animal and your actions are governed by your brain. Just as you can’t touch your elbow to your nose due to how you’ve evolved physically, in a neurological sense you cannot resist the urge to make sense of the information you’re presented with. It happens automatically.

The human brain has evolved to make sense of the world. It uses the constructs of beginning, middle and end as an aide. When the brain lacks information it readily makes it up, there’s plenty of examples of this in patients with partial memory loss or dementia. They fill in the gap. On a grander scale that’s one possible theory as to why we have religion, because man lacked a systematic means to make sense of the world. Too much information, too fast, so we created the various religions we have today as a basic means to explain it all. That’s essentially what the author is doing in this case.

Even if you buy into the statement that god is “that which is not limited by whatever limits the universe” it doesn’t help. It’s like saying “everything I don’t understand is god”. If I took that definition and applied it back in the 1800s you would’ve said the “power which causes birds to fly is god” or “that which causes lightning is god” etc. It’s a fruitless exercise and as time goes by, understanding increases, we’ll find less and less of a need for a bucket labeled “god”.

One final note which must always be called out in discussions such as this; the presence or lack thereof of a religious set of beliefs is in no way tied to the morality or ethical behaviour of the individual. Just because you require evidence and question the world around you doesn’t make you a bad person. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to present my thoughts in an open manner in an effort to further the discussion.


  • Ugo said:

    Well said. I was thinking of replying to Nova’s article on Twine, but since it needs registration I will probably avoid it. Too bad, it would have been fun to ask where does one gets the ludicrous idea that “modern-day science […] takes the position that universe is strictly a physical phenomenon and that everything about can be explained by physical measurements and laws.” and to explain why asking “where” the universe is located is meaningless.

    In the end, Nova’s article comes down to trying once again to prove the existence of god by defining god in a way that would satisfy the proof. Too bad that definition is not what 99% of the religious people on this planet call God, i.e. a personal, sentient being that intervenes directly in this world to punish the evil and reward the good.

  • Jim Shanahan said:

    Thought provoking discussion on the radio this week. Are we the only intelligent lifeform. The question was – what if a separate species evolved to rival our intelligence? What would this mean? Well science has already found that such a species did exist until it died out 25000 years ago…neanderthal man. A separately evolved species of “humankind” with not quite the equal but still a lot more intelligence than any other species except us. Except for the iceage, we would be sharing this planet today. Interesting how this would impact on our belief as being superior to all species.

  • Jim Shanahan said:

    Definition of a species, not able to interbreed with their nearest related species. Scientists are still working to prove that neanderthal were a completely separate species, and not a sub-species that could breed with homo sapiens. The work involves sequencing their DNA, and is almost complete.

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