Friday, April 20, 2007

Science and Religion Crossover Points

(Since writing this in 2007 I have become an Athiest. TF, Aug 2010)

Crossover Points:
Science has its ways of proving knowledge, and religion has its ways. The current heated arguments between the two have to do with a difference of methods. A crossover point is some issue or theory where religious ideas can be successfully proven by scientific methods. There are very few such points.
There may also be crossover points the other way, where scientific theories can be proven by religions means. But that is not what this post is about

The Scientific Method: Science proves ideas by analyzing evidence that can validate or invalidate in concrete ways. All evidence must be viewable by several parties, all of which must be able to verify the evidence. This may entail redoing an experiment and viewing the outcome, or looking at artifacts in an independent fashion. There is usually much discussion about the strength of given piece of evidence, that results in a general consensus of validity. After a time a consensus is reached and held until conflicting evidence arises, or a better 'fit' for the facts is discovered as a new theory.

Weak Religious Arguments: Most arguments presented by religious advocates fail in the 'all evidence must be viewable' and in the weakness of the evidence. For example, a religious person might state that the spiritual feelings they have about The Bible prove it is the word of God. This evidence is only valid to the person feeling it because no one else can see the feelings or spiritual witness. In addition the feelings could be caused by many other mental effects and are thus not universally accepted as valid.
Anyone else could read the Bible and get the same witness, but that will not validate the idea for people in general, and many people would say the evidence is just fooling your self

The recent article about the 18(?) invalid arguments given by religious believers (If anyone has a reference please email me) all the arguments made consist of self-reported evidence or of weak proofs. For example 'my church must be true because everyone there is so nice' or 'God must exist or the Universe would not be here.' This article was a good list of bad arguments and every one was correct in that none of the arguments are valid from a scientific view. Thus none of them are crossover points.

Synthetic Crossover Points: Some religious arguments attempt to create crossover points by either distorting scientific theories (Intelligent Design (yuck), or Evolution is 'just a theory') or citing evidences that are too weak. A classic series of weak arguments are proofs that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and then trying to disprove scientific theories by the Bible. If the base evidence (The Bible) is weak as a proof, then all the rest of the arguments fall down. I have yet to see a verifiable proof that the Bible is the word of God.
On the other hand, I do believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but all my direct proofs or of the internal weak type. More on this later.

Written Artifacts: The most obvious crossover point would be a written artifact of know age and origin. The Bible is a written artifact, but is obviously an evolved text over many centuries. While the Bible is interesting and useful, it is not miraculous in any verifiable sense. Its existence can be entirely reasonably accounted for by archaeological, social, and historic means.

What alternative artifacts or evidence could there be? Other verifiable evidences for the existence of God would be a repeatable and measurable miracle. I have never seen such a thing, and in fact most religious doctrines state that 'tempting God' for a repeatable miracle, on demand, is against the way religion works. (You evil sinner you!)

The Main Point: So now we arrive at my main point. The only crossover point I have ever seen is the Book of Mormon. Several ideas surrounding The Book of Mormon and the Mormon doctrinal story about where it came from are not crossover points. The part about the angel delivering the gold plates and similar ideas are not scientifically verifiable.

What is verifiable is the concrete text and it's claim to be of ancient semi-Hebrew origin and partly of Egyptian literary and cultural origin. Regardless of the spiritual claims made by Mormons about the Book of Mormon, in no way do such claims invalidate the concrete textual reality.

Facts of Origin: There are several concrete facts about where The Book of Mormon came from.
Note: I will be referring to The Book of Mormon, meaning the written of the text on paper with a pen by normal people and its publication on a printing press as a commonly available printed book.
  1. The Book of Mormon was not in existence before the early 1800's
  2. There is a very small pool of people that were involved in the creation of The Book of Mormon. It was not a huge group collaboration.
  3. Egyptian was not yet translatable when The Book of Mormon was created.
  4. The Book of Mormon first edition is available. Since then revisions have been very minimal punctuation changes and a few word changes for clarity. Thus the current edition is valid for analysis.
Thesis: If The Book of Mormon can be shown to have linguistic, cultural, and literary artifacts that show it be a combination of Hebrew and Egyptian text, translated (not transliterated) to English, then it is a concrete, verifiable evidence of the existence of God. In Mormon parlance, it is 'A Marvelous Work and a Wonder'.

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