The Instigator
mentalist
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Paradoxxal
Con (against)
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Modern science is too primitive to validly discount unexplainable supernatural phenomena.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/9/2015 Category: Science
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 325 times Debate No: 77472
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (5)
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mentalist

Pro

Modern science is too primitive, narrow -minded and solipsistic to validly discount unexplainable or supernatural phenomena. There is so much naturally occuring phenomena that modern science cannot explain that it is impossible for the field to accurately assert that claims of unexplainable or supernatural phenomena are not credible.
Paradoxxal

Con

I accept a challenge. We could validly discount it, but most people choose not to.

I open this debate with a question; Are we programmed to believe in god?

When something appears in every known society, as religion does, the question of whether it is "in the genes" naturally arises. Did religion confer such benefits on our distant ancestors that genes favoring it spread by natural selection? There are scientists who believe the answer is yes"enough of them, in fact, to give rise to headlines like this one, in a Canadian newspaper: "Search continues for "God gene.""

Expect to see that headline again, for the search is unlikely to reach a successful conclusion. And that isn"t just because, obviously, no single gene could undergird something as complex as religion. Things don"t look good even for the more nuanced version of the "God gene" idea"that a whole bunch of genes were preserved by natural selection because they inclined people toward religion.

Oddly, this verdict"that religion isn"t in any straightforward sense "in the genes""emerges from evolutionary psychology, a field that has been known to emphasize genetic influences on thought and emotion. Though some evolutionary psychologists think religion is a direct product of natural selection, many"and probably most"don"t.
This doesn"t mean religion isn"t in any sense "natural," and it doesn"t mean religion isn"t in some sense "in the genes." Everything people do is in some sense in the genes. (Try doing something without using any genes.) What"s more, we can trace religion to specific parts of human nature that are emphatically in the genes. It"s just that those parts of human nature seem to have evolved for some reason other than to sustain religion.

The American psychologist William James, in his 1902 classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, captured the basic idea without referring to evolution: "There is religious fear, religious love, religious awe, religious joy, and so forth. But religious love is only man"s natural emotion of love directed to a religious object; religious fear is only the ordinary fear of commerce, so to speak, the common quaking of the human breast, in so far as the notion of divine retribution may arouse it; religious awe is the same organic thrill which we feel in a forest at twilight, or in a mountain gorge; only this time it comes over us at the thought of our supernatural relations."

If you want to put James"s basic point in the language of evolutionary biology, you have to drag in the concept of an "adaptation." An adaptation is a trait whose underlying genes spread through the gene pool by virtue of their giving rise to that trait. Love, for example, seems to be an adaptation. Love of offspring, by inspiring nurturance of those offspring, can help genes get into future generations; as a result, genes underlying parental love seem to have spread by virtue of their conduciveness to love. You can similarly make arguments that awe and joy and fear"the other sentiments James cites"were, in themselves, adaptations. (Fearing a big aggressive animal, or a big aggressive human being, could save your skin and thus save the genes underlying the fear.) But that doesn"t mean religion is an adaptation, even though religion may involve love, awe, joy, and fear and thus involve the genes underlying these things.

To shift back into less technical terminology: you might say that we were "designed" by natural selection to feel love and awe and joy and fear. (So long as you understand that "designed" is a metaphor; natural selection isn"t like a human designer who consciously envisions the end product and then realizes it, but is rather a blind, dumb process of trial and error.) But to say that these emotions are a product of "design" isn"t to say that when they"re activated by religion they"re working as "designed."

Similarly, humans were "designed" by natural selection to be able to run and were also "designed" to feel competitive spirit, but that doesn"t mean they were "designed" to participate in track meets. Religion, like track, doesn"t seem to be an "adaptation." Both seem to be what the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called a "spandrel""a phenomenon supported by genes that had become part of the species by doing something other than supporting that phenomenon. A spandrel is an incidental by-product of the organic "design" process, whereas an adaptation is a direct product. Religion seems to be a spandrel.

And yet, you might say, religion does have the hallmarks of design. It is a complex, integrated system that seems to serve specific functions. For example, religions almost always handle some key "rites of passage""getting married, getting buried, and so on"whose ritualized handling is probably good for the society. How do you explain the coherence and functionality of religion without appealing to a designer"or, at least, a "designer"?
You don"t. But biological evolution isn"t the only great "designer" at work on this planet. There is also cultural evolution: the selective transmission of "memes""beliefs, habits, rituals, songs, technologies, theories, and so forth"from person to person. And one criterion that shapes cultural evolution is social utility; memes that are conducive to smooth functioning at the group level often have an advantage over memes that aren"t. Cultural evolution is what gave us modern corporations, modern government, and modern religion.

For that matter, it gave us unmodern religion. Whenever we look at a "primitive" religion, we are looking at a religion that has been evolving culturally for a long time. Though observed hunter-gatherer religions give clues about what the average religion was like 12,000 years ago, before the invention of agriculture, none of them much resembles religion in its literally primitive phase, the time (whenever that was) when religious beliefs and practices emerged. Rather, what are called "primitive" religions are bodies of belief and practice that have been evolving"culturally"over tens or even hundreds of millennia. Generation after generation, human minds have been accepting some beliefs, rejecting others, shaping and reshaping religion along the way.

Our science has come quite the long way, and we could if we tried.
Debate Round No. 1
mentalist

Pro

I thank Con for participating in this debate.

Con delved into some interesting material regarding religion and science. However, I would like to make clear that my assertion did not infer or specifically mention religion. I would also like to state that I do not claim to be an expert regarding this issue, or in fact, any issue that I debate. Through debate or discourse it is possible to gain more understanding or move closer toward the truth.

There are many concepts that are considered to be supernatural. The claim put forth in this debate is that modern science does not have enough data to validly discount unknown, unexplained or supernatural phenomena. Science has historically been at odds with the possibility of the existence of supernatural phenomena. That being said, I will first address the question of God and religion, as that was the main focus of Con's response.

"Are we programmed to believe in God?"
I do not think we are born with a God program. If we were, what would be the purpose of religion? Would there be athiests? Can religion be used as a form of programming? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Is religion supernatural in itself? No. Most religions in their purest forms are methodologies which attempt to explain the origin, composition, and order of the cosmos and mankind's place and purpose within it. Also, I think we must make a clear distinction between God and religion. If finding God is the goal, religion can be viewed as the map. Along that line, depending on the starting point, one's path, map or religion to God would be different.

"..."Search continues for "God gene."..."
Modern science has claimed to have mapped the entire human genome, however, they still refer to certain segments of the DNA chain as junk DNA. This, in my opinion, is analogous to having parts left over after putting together a model and considering them to be useless. I think this 'junk' or noncoding DNA is similar to unused memory in a computer. While it is not currently being used, it can be 'accesed' in the future.

"...same organic thrill which we feel in a forest at twilight, or in a mountain gorge; only this time it comes over us at the thought of our supernatural relations..."
This brings up an interesting point. Feelings like love, hate, or fear cannot be fully explained by modern science. Sure, scientists can tell us the hormones that are released when we feel these emotions. Yet, they can't tell you why we have them or why they manifest toward certain people or things but not toward others.

"...language of evolutionary biology..."
Here is the question most asked about evolution. If humans descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys? Evolution claims that we both descended from a common ancestor that is extinct. However, we clearly have an ability for higher levels of reasoning, free will and consciousness. By reasoning, I mean higher reasoning or what you alluded to as a spandrel. By free will, I mean the ability to choose not to act according to our animal instincts. By consciousness, I mean knowledge of self. Monkeys have similar physiology to man, yet, as the quote attributed to Aristotle states, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

"...There is also cultural evolution..."
Cultural evolution is an extension of free will and higher reasoning. Monkeys do not get married, bury their dead or have fads.

"Our science has come quite the long way, and we could if we tried."
Science has tried to quantify God or the Creator and other supernatural phenomena, yet, as the assertion states, modern science is too primitive, narrow-minded and solipsistic. Modern science once claimed the worls was flat and all the planets revolved around the earth. Suggestion otherwise led to death for many people. Science only gives credence to what is visible, tangible or measurable. Most of mankind can only see a " relatively narrow band of electromagnetic radiation" [1] Mankind's other senses are limited as well. Many animals have developed and maintained more acute senses. However, we have created such a mundane and dense existence, we do not get to exercise our senses. It has been estimated that most people only use 10% of their brain. In short we have a lot of growing up or developing that needs to be done.

As I stated in the comments, modern science has yet to explain dreams or yawning, how can it deny the existence of the supernatural?


http://io9.com... [1]

Paradoxxal

Con

Paradoxxal forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
mentalist

Pro

I await further response from Con.
Paradoxxal

Con

Paradoxxal forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
mentalist

Pro

mentalist forfeited this round.
Paradoxxal

Con

Paradoxxal forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
mentalist

Pro

mentalist forfeited this round.
Paradoxxal

Con

Paradoxxal forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Paradoxxal 1 year ago
Paradoxxal
I apologize my absence. I was on vacation. I have returned and will now actively continue the debate.
Posted by mentalist 1 year ago
mentalist
supernatural - adjective
1. of, relating to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal. [http://dictionary.reference.com......]

superstition- noun
1. a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like. [http://dictionary.reference.com......]

science - noun
5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study. [http://dictionary.reference.com......]

natural - adj.
13. consonant with the nature or character of. [http://dictionary.reference.com......]

These are different terns with different meanings.

Modern science does not have the ability to determine what is natural. Science has yet to explain dreams or yawning, yet, they are natural occurrences.
Posted by Paradoxxal 1 year ago
Paradoxxal
What he means by supernatural phenomena is ghosts, and unexplained mysteries.
Posted by Nokkin 1 year ago
Nokkin
I'd like to know your history with science, what classes you've taken, what philosophy you believe in, what supernatural phenomenon you're talking about
Posted by Baraggan22 1 year ago
Baraggan22
What are the definitions to be clear.
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