Tag Archive: religion

Nasty little facts of logic

Although science is a social institution, it is not just another social institution. The social institution of science is obedient to special imperatives because it undertakes to explore and explain the world, to in some sense use the world as the ultimate test of its results. Science institutionalises what we know as empiricism, the attempt to learn from experience. The spine of learning from experience is logic: if we have two inconsistent statements, one of them must be false, its negation true. This uncomfortable logical fact, so often allowed to be disregarded or even flouted by other social insti­tutions (e.g. in politics and religion), has to be taken seriously in science. The republic of science makes it difficult to evade or flout contradiction, hence the detection of one is an incipient crisis. [18]

A theory’s mark of Cain

In general, perverse but unrefuted theories which one can propose off the cuff fall roughly into two categories. There are theories that postulate unobservable entities, such as particles that do not interact with any other matter. They can be rejected for solving nothing (‘Occam’s razor’, if you like). And there are theories, like yours, that predict unexplained observable anomalies. They can be rejected for solving nothing and spoiling existing solutions. It is not, I hasten to add, that they conflict with existing observations. It is that they remove the explanatory power from existing theories by asser­ting that the predictions of those theories have exceptions, but not explaining how. [160-1]

Russell’s attacks on religion

Russell’s attack on religious belief took a variety of forms and was expressed in a variety of ways, often in the form of ridiculing the contradictions, absurdities and anthropocentric parochialisms of religions and their sacred texts, practices and ethics, and sometimes in the form of direct argumentation against the claims either of natural theology or reve­lation. He also argued from more general historical and sociological considerations about the effects of religion – and more generally ’faith’ understood as including not just religion but Soviet Communism and the like – on society and human lives. He saw that religions and political tyrannies share in common a monolithic structure which demands sub­servience and loyalty on pain of punishment, proscribes independence of thought and action, hands down the dogma to be believed and lived by, and issues a one-size-fits-all morality or way of life to which conformity must be absolute. Russell objected both intellectually and morally, and both on principle and in defence of human nature and possibility, to the harm done by this. The tenor of his attacks on religion is explainable accordingly. [59]

The enemy of truth and rationality

Es gibt ein totales Engagement, das die unvoreingenommene Wahrheitssuche und das kritisch-rationale Denken beseitigt oder zumindest beeinträchtigt und das im Endeffekt – gleichgültig, ob es im Namen des Glaubens und einer göttlichen Macht, im Namen der Geschichte oder in dem der Vernunft in Erscheinung tritt – immer wieder zu totalitären Konsequenzen geführt hat. […] Es kommt hier vielmehr darauf an, daß unter gewissen strukturellen Gesichtspunkten Katholizismus, Kalvinismus, Kommunismus und Faschismus zusammengehören, nicht etwa, weil alle diese historisch sehr komplexen Phänomene in jeder Hinsicht gleichartig oder auch nur gleichwertig wären, sondern weil in ihnen das extreme Gegenteil der im analytischen Denken postulierten Neutralität wirksam war oder ist: die blinde Parteilichkeit, der gehorsame Glaube, das unkorrigierbare Engagement. [5-6]

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