I am a Scientist. I do sometimes feel sad about how often these things are misinterpreted, especially when such statements as ‘Scientists say…’ and the perception is created that it is that all scientists agree or that science itself has concluded something. I feel sad because this simply isn’t true. It’s an interpretation, conclusion forming and communication problem.
For example: ‘Scientists say “GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms] are a good thing and implementation of GM technology must be supported”‘:
Science has an understanding of and discovered ways to manipulate the DNA of organisms. Scientists have used techniques developed in various applications, This is value free fact.
It is possible to interpret some individual applications of GM technology as beneficial. Scientists may interpret this potential of GM to do net good. Part of the role of the scientist is to discover things about how the world works and communicate these findings and potential uses. At this point science ends.
GM as being universally good? We are now entering into value judgements and forming conclusions. Really it is up to individuals and society in general whether something is potentially good. The conclusion that ‘all GM is good’ is absurd, each application has to be judged on it’s merits and some applications will be bad too. However it is difficult for policy makers and legislative bodies to create rules for. So, hopefully this makes clear the problem of lumping the process of truth, interpretation and rule making conclusion, into one misleading ‘Scientists say…’ statement.
I am a Christian and the exact same problem occurs in faith. For example “Christians say that justice is a good thing and must always be supported”:
Christianity is a religion, that assists people in connection with their spirituality/ the divine. This enables people to enter a state of understanding and connection with the idea of universal love ,truth and goodness. That is what Christianity is, it’s not unique to Christianity, or even unique to religion. This connection with God through the Holy Ghost enables individuals to understand and connect with the concept of justice and know that it is good.
The secular person can equally understand the concept of justice. Perhaps rather than through spirituality, it is achieved by considering examples of justice and injustice until the concept is understood in the mind.
Any individual issue of justice has to be assessed on it’s merits as to whether it is a case of justice. Considering whether an act is a just act is an interpretation. Furthermore attempts may be made, that come to be understood empirically, to reach conclusions and create rules. Rules are not Christianity, they are an individuals interpretation, for example: ‘Christianity must be defended when attacked’ is an interpretation, subject to the frailties of human reason. So, it is equally wrong to make statements such as ‘Christians say justice should be defended’, isn’t a part of Christianity, it is an interpretation by some people who are identify as Christians.
Spirituality isn’t an easy concept to understand, even those of faith sometimes lose their ability to connect with their spirituality. I used to be Agnostic myself, so found it easy to criticise Christianity, because I didn’t understand what it was. It is the interpretation of Christianity, indeed conclusions by Christians that can cause problems.
Really because the brain state of spirituality is something discovered, rather than reached through logic, it is an emotional state, it is not easy to achieve. Much of Christianity, as a religion, concerns biblical stories and rituals that assist adherents achieve spirituality. This is all symbolic and not literally true:
As a Christian, I believe in God, the father almighty. What is God? God is the brain state of achieving spirituality. God only exists in human minds, there is no corporeal existence in this universe. I believe God is eternal, because spirituality exists in the universe, any being with human-like mind can access this concept and the concept is eternal. Becoming a Christian is simply gaining access to God.
I believe in immortality. I have connected with my spirituality, which I call God, my physical body will perish, but I have connected with an eternal concept, that other humans will achieve after me, that is my immortality. I do not believe that my soul will endure in some spiritual realm, fraternising with angels and other souls, although this is a wonderful concept, it is not true, but does contain a sense of being on a path to achieving spirituality.
I believe that God created the universe, not as some supernatural creative force of matter and energy, but as the possibility that in an otherwise dead neutral universe of matter and energy, human beings are capable of love, of experiencing decision making with an awareness that there are good positive ways of acting and otherwise (the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Genesis creation story) and giving value to life and the universe. I don’t think humans will ever know how God was involved with the creation of this universe, to me this is not an important part of the faith, simply the belief is.
The words Christians use are more symbolic than literal. When I take communion, I do not believe that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. I do believe that I have symbolically connected with Christ and that helps me achieve the state of spirituality and connection with the Holy Trinity.
What makes Christianity special, is it’s clothes. The stories that surround the faith itself and the tradition it is a part of. All religions are about achieving spirituality, it’s just that the clothes, the stories and rituals are different. The ‘rules’ are interpretations by specific sects of any religion, it is a shame that they are not always recognised as such. Everyone makes rules and creates fictions, to get through life more efficiently and keep ourselves happy, to achieve spirituality quicker, it is important to remember that they are all fictions and not absolute truths. I create and subscribe to fictions as a Scientist and as a Christian to achieve happiness, whilst retaining an understanding of what are universal truths and what are fictions/interpretations.
In Science as well, we make rules and form theories. These help Scientists make efficient progress. Good scientists are always aware that the general conceptualisation of a theory may not be quite right. Good scientists are always keen to consider that they have discovered something that reveals the bigger picture more clearly. Equally adherents of faith should always question teachings and interpretations of their faith,
It baffles me that people wish to ever lump Science and Religion together, to me this is absurd. Science is a way of gathering information about how the universe of matter and energy works. Religion is about fragility of the human mind and the force of seeking an ease with itself and the universe. They are almost entirely separate. I don’t believe you can have the universe with human like minds in it without God.
All too often, we go from simple concepts, along paths of reasoning, making a generalisation here, strongly identify with a particular case and reach interpretations and conclusions that have little to do with the initial concept.