IEET > Vision > Affiliate Scholar > John G. Messerly > Philosophy
Science, Religion, and the Future
John G. Messerly   Jun 12, 2015   Reason and Meaning  

I have written multiple times on the paucity of religious belief among professional philosopher and scientists. A perceptive reader mused that modern science was primarily responsible for the decline. As he suggested, since the 17th century scientific explanations have come, for the educated at least, to replace supernatural explanations.

Or, as my reader put it, “At no point has the bearded-dude-in-space explanation been helpful” in explaining anything.

I think my reader has it about right—the rise of modern science has been a primary reason for the decline of the influence of religion in western culture since the 17th century. Yes there probably are other factors—capitalism, modernism, history and more—but with the rise of modern science in the last 400 years, naturalistic explanations have come to replace supernaturalism ones.

But my perceptive reader was also puzzled by the desire of the more educated and sophisticated religious to defend their beliefs with more obtuse and abstract notions of gods. Of course their god is not a father in the sky they say, but rather the ground of being or fine tuner of the universe or something even more esoteric. What my reader wondered was what such theoretical deities have to do with the beliefs of typical religious believers? In other words, how does a proof of an abstract god square with the god most of the faithful profess to believe?

Little did my reader know that he has stumbled upon a problem that had baffled Christian thinkers from Pascal to Kierkegaard right up to the present time. How do we know “the god of the philosophers” is the Christian or any other God? For all we know this ultimate explanation or reason for everything—what the faithful call god—could be a ball of energy, a quantum flux, an unstable nothingness, a computer simulation, or something else.

Of course believers can always use faith as their trump card, like Kierkegaard did. Or they can appeal to personal experience or pragmatism or emotion or intuition. People generally believe what they want to believe and reason comes along for the ride, as Hume noted long ago.

But in the end we don’t really have to respond to all the subterfuges by which people deceive themselves. As human beings make the transition from human to posthumanity, when suffering and death have been defeated by science and technology, religion, at least in its current form, will be irrelevant. Superintelligences won’t find their answers in Jesus or Mohammed or ancient legends.  And then an honest search for meaning and values can proceed.

John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website: reasonandmeaning.com.



COMMENTS

The ‘paucity’ of religion and ‘all the subterfuges by which people deceive themselves’ may be a universal trait of human nature, the reflection of a profound ignorance. Allowing useless argument to perpetuate itself, which might have be amusing for mud slinging between atheist and religious, but there is a new contender in the culture wars getting ready to make both sides look like fools.

For what science and religion, not to mention the rest of us, thought impossible has now happened. History has its first literal, testable and fully demonstrable proof for faith and it’s on the web.

The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ has been published. Radically different from anything else we know of from theology or history, this new teaching is predicated upon the ‘promise’ of a precise, predefined, predictable and repeatable experience of transcendent omnipotence and called ‘the first Resurrection’ in the sense that the Resurrection of Jesus was intended to demonstrate Gods’ willingness to reveal Himself and intervene directly into the natural world for those obedient to His Command, paving the way for access to the power of divine Will and ultimate proof as the justification of faith.

Thus ‘faith’ becomes an act of trust in action, the search along a defined path of strict self discipline, [a test of the human heart] to discover His ‘Word’ of a direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power that confirms divine will, law, command and covenant, which at the same time, realigns our mortal moral compass with the Divine, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.”  Thus is a man ‘created’ in the image and likeness of his Creator.

So like it or no, and most won’t, a new religious teaching, a wisdom not of human intellectual origin, empirical, metaphysical and transcendent, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of an intellectual, moral and religious/spiritual revolution is getting under way. To test or not to test, that is the question? More info at http://www.energon.org.uk

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