Science vs. the Qur’an

I received a comment on my post Religion as a mental parasite from Hashem, an Ohio native studying abroad at a university in Cairo. He converted to Islam, and believes its teachings to be divinely inspired due to the scientific information it conveys that was not available to its author(s) at the time of writing, in 600CE.

jthibeault, I like your article, and I have been in your place some time ago and truly understand what your thinking and trying to convey. But I got out of this, after extensive re-search on religion, and found, as always, how the strongest and most fearful things have extensive degrading rumors around it. From here I’m trying to say the religion I found, and I am not a preacher, but someone open to new thoughts that would shed “light upon me” and help me understand the truth, like letting up on my religion, have more faith in it, or whatever the outcome would be. I talk about Islam, and till today I haven’t found any flaw in the texts of the holy Q’uran regarding science, or anything which changed to adapt to science, or anything which ever prevented in the search of science. Actually its quiet the opposite, since it always calls for us to look for science and advance more in this world that god gave us. The scientific facts, philosophies, and explanations were never out of date, and is actually much ahead of its time. Please ask questions, I would love to have this conversation/debate, if you may, with you.

There’s a kernel of truth to this statement — while the Christian world suffered through the anti-knowledge Dark Ages, the Arabic world, predominantly Muslim, enjoyed a period of flourishing scientific discovery in astronomy and mathematics, owing largely to their disinclination to describe physical properties of objects, preferring instead to describe their Platonic ideals. Since they disliked the idea of trying to “unweave the rainbow” and take glory away from Allah, they largely avoided over-scrutiny of any of this world’s actual physical properties, so other disciplines languished while mathematics and astronomy benefited.

The challenge, however, is this: show the Qur’an had special scientific knowledge unavailable to mankind in ~600CE. That’s a tough nut to crack.
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Standing on Aether, Thinking Airy Thoughts

Courtesy of the ineffable Stephanie Zvan, our local cargo cult’s patron saint of Win, here is a simply perfect explanation of why atheists, skeptics and scientists of all stripes have every right to disrespect “serious theologians” and “serious philosophers” when they ask — nay, DEMAND — that we pay homage to all the philosophers who have come before us, who have grappled with any question about the existence of a creator deity. I simply cannot pullquote enough parts of the whole to do it justice, but what I have pullquoted, I hope will induce you to click through.

To extrapolate, pseudoscience is often a process of deciding that something needs to be explained without first checking to see whether an explanation already exists. All the rigorous design, careful statistical analysis, and flawless logic in the world can’t help you produce good results if your premises are faulty. Biochemists can do all the meticulous work they want on how a particular type of bacteria present in a field breaks down pig manure and liberates nitrogen, but if the field under study only ever sees cow manure, the results are going to be meaningless. At that point, it becomes pseudoscience just as much as if the work itself were shoddy.

Philosophy is different than science, of course. That doesn’t mean, though, that pseudophilosophy isn’t just as important a concept to understand as pseudoscience is. And as with pseudoscience, the problems of pseudophilosophy don’t only happen when someone screws up the process by, say, falling prey to a fallacy. They can just as easily happen in the process of formulating questions.
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We are being told we should respect the serious work done by philosophers on these fundamental questions. Instead, we look at what we know of the world around us and ask why anyone is asking. Can the questions that made sense when religious philosophy mediated between competing ideas still produce any answers with meaning today, when religious philosophy is being used to defend its own existence in a world that continually reveals its secrets to us?

Michael Ruse thinks we must grapple today with “Does a creator god exist?” because someone else once did. Instead, we look at our universe and ask what “creation” would even mean in this context. When we understand that we don’t know whether our universe has always existed, whether time is a meaningful concept outside the bounds of our universe, whether our universe is the only one, it is perfectly valid to look askance at those who assume creation in order to ask about gods. When we know from our scientific pursuits that humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, it is important to demonstrate not just that the question can be asked, but that it can lead to a meaningful answer.

Emphasis mine. Every word of this post is right. Nobody in classical philosophy has ever shown that their “question of God” even has merit as a question. And with the advent of modern science showing us how the universe actually works, many of the questions these philosophers have pondered have been wholly obviated. And when I say obviated, I mean they are no longer meaningful or worth pursuing, because the assumptions underpinning those questions have disappeared into the very aether they presuppose.

Why Prayer is Nonsense #nationaldayofprayer

In honor of the US tradition of turning Cinco de Mayo into the farcical National Day of Prayer, today I repost my opus, Why Prayer is Nonsense.

By no means is this intended to be an exhaustive list of every theological discussion, every argument and counterargument, with regard to prayer’s efficacy. My aim with this series is to show why prayer is an ultimately useless endeavor, either devoid of any merit when defined narrowly, or if defined vaguely, indistinguishable from other mental disciplines like meditation; and how people entrenching prayer in the public consciousness and including it in their individual philosophies in such large numbers as exists today, tangibly harms society.

This is the master post, the first in a series that will be updated as time allows. I’ll be editing links into this post as I create the subsequent parts. There are a lot of interconnected points that need to be woven together to form my final argument, so please bear with me as I get this thing built. If you’d like to start pulling on threads early, that may help to shape future parts, but otherwise, bear in mind I may well cover it by the time this series is done. Some posts will be longer than others (especially part 2), but I’ll be making an effort to keep the parts relatively digestible, which is of course why I’m chunking this up to begin with.

Part 1: First, define prayer
Part 2: Know your deities
Part 3: But everyone knows prayer works!
Part 4: Even if it IS useless, what’s the harm?
Part 5: So why pray?

As an added bonus, as if that’s not enough to read on its own, check out Religion as a mental parasite to understand why and how the meme of prayer is spread.