Mesh Belief Part II – Meshing With Scientism

Mesh Belief Part I – Sim 9/11 closed with the question:

Would you change your belief based on a simulation?

because Participating In The Big Simulation will inevitably challenge deeply held beliefs. Such beliefs, whether theologically rooted or not often make it difficult for people(strictly biological or not) to respectfully disagree. Thus, by challenging deeply held beliefs, simulations potentially exacerbate the problem. At the same time, simulations may hold the key to respectfully resolving conflicting beliefs(violence is disrespect in the extreme). However, given the scientific underpinnings of simulations, we’ll have to first find a way to get along respectfully with believers in Scientism – the biggest religion most people never heard of.

Scientism is

The belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc. of the physical and biological sciences are equally appropriate and essential in all other disciplines including the humanities and the social sciences.

Wikitionary

Uncomfortable with the idea of belief, many advocates of scientism steadfastly avoid any association with religion but one prominent and radical spokesperson makes plain their religious world view:

Scientism is courageously proffering naturalistic answers that supplant supernaturalistic ones and in the process is providing spiritual sustenance for those whose needs are not being met by these ancient cultural traditions. Second, we are, at base, a socially hierarchical primate species. We show deference to our leaders, pay respect to our elders and follow the dictates of our shamans; this being the Age of Science, it is scientism’s shamans who command our veneration.
The Shamans of Scientism
(emphasis mine)

While I am not opposed to the belief in scientism, I am of the view that attempts to elevate it over other beliefs are inherently unscientific. Having been educated in the language and methods of science(B.S. Mechanical Engineering degree, some masters level and various other coursework in Computer Science along with extensive self study in physics, genetics and biology) and having applied that knowledge to among other things, the design, assembly, testing and delivery into geosynchronous orbit of precision spacecraft devices(Senior Systems Engineer Hughes Space & Communications) I can assure you that Scientism, like any belief system cannot be “proven” by scientific method. You need not be confused or intimidated by any shaman of the religion of Scientism trying to convince you otherwise.

Radical proponents of Scientism believe that they have a duty to enlighten non-believers. As we’ll see in Part III, that sense of duty can lead to the question of whether non-belief in Scientism is an inherent flaw that ought to be eliminated. Fortunately Scientism seems to follow the same patterns as most religions so most of it’s advocates aren’t extremists. Most proponents of Scientism I’ve encountered are openly accepting of referring to their views as a system of belief that can be religious in nature. This isn’t surprising because unlike traditional theistic religions(see comments), science by any definition doesn’t speak to absolutes. While there is an ongoing debate about the definition of science, you don’t hear people claiming science is a means of discovering absolute truths – there is no inherent conflict between science and religion. Part IV will address where the apparent clash between religion and science comes from.

Freed from the perception of conflict, theology and scientific research could benefit from each other by respectfully exploring insights into areas such as consciousness and brain function. Simulations provide a good vehicle for that kind of exploration and as mentioned at the outset, a means of respectfully disagreeing. Beyond science and religion, virtually walking a mile in someone else’s belief system can go a long way to helping resolve conflict(see Personal Security, War and Global Climate Mesh). Given that this planet is the only place we humans have to live for quite some time and that our weapons are capable of wreaking much, much more damage than we’ve already seen, enlightened self-interest would seem to call for a serious effort to develop less destructive means of conflict resolution. What we learn should also help in case events outside of our control(think asteroids) radically alter living conditions here on earth.

Update:

It’s now 2009 and at some point last year I decided that I really couldn’t do the topic justice without it becoming much longer. I also decided to simply continue gathering relevant material and work on this “as the spirit moves me”. Most likely this will result in a single publication rather than a series of parts. Comments on what’s here remain welcome.

It’s been a couple two months now since this post was written during which I’ve had very little time to spend on the subsequent posts. Much of that time was used to revise the structure which has resulted in two additional parts, the first of which I hope to get out real soon(within a week but no promises).

Upcoming Installments:

  • Part III – Superstition Ain’t The Way
  • Part IV – Fundamentalist Religions and The Limits of Knowledge
  • Part V – Radical Scientism and The Limits of Knowledge
  • Part VI – Why Traditional Religions & Science Appear To Clash
  • Part VII – An Enlightened Self-Interest In Harmonious Coexistence
Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. Dan Shafer said

    Laurence,

    Great series so far. Can’t wait to read the rest!

    I think you are perhaps being a bit overly generous when you say, “unlike traditional theistic religions, science by any definition doesn’t speak to absolutes.” The underlying, unspoken absolute of Scientism is the base reliance on the scientific method as the only basis for proof of any alleged truth. Scientism dismisses any metaphysical or mystical teaching solely on the basis that it cannot be detected by any of our physical sense systems, cannot be measured by any known instrumentality, and is subject to personal interpretation.

    This reliance on a method in and of itself renders it impossible for scientists to explore with any seriousness cosmic questions of cause and origin which allow for any mystical component whatsoever.

    In short, it seems to me that many theological systems are “big tents” that allow plenty of room for Scientism even while disagreeing with some details while Science, broadly speaking, does not have much tolerance for views that cannot be “proven” by the rules it sets forth.

  2. Laurence said

    Thanks Dan. I agree with you regarding the “underlying, unspoken absolute of Scientism” – my wording isn’t as clear as it could have been and I’ve updated the post.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: