the gods

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at
Thu May 29 10:48:59 UTC 1997

Op 28-mei-97 schreef Vidyasankar Sundaresan:


>It would be nice if the word 'scientific' could be replaced by 'logical'
>or 'rational' in the above. For an entity as elusive as god(s), science
>can contribute almost nothing to a discussion on *what* a god is, let
>alone prove or disprove *that* a god is. In a discussion of agni and
>dIrghatamas, contemporary science just has to keep silent. 

i don't agree. science deals with facts. a fact is acknowleged public
information although within certain limits: no fact is without context. the
qualities of a god are facts, they have been revealed in public texts to
believers as well as to unbelievers. but even if a god is only known to a
limited group of believers and the believers are reluctant to talk about it,
there is no reason why this god couldn't be the object of scientific research.
of course we find the qualities of a god not by practising mysticism, as the
young Frits Staal once thought, but by reading texts. 

>Although most science adheres to a philosophy of logical positivism,
>theories like quantum mechanics make scientists worry about what is meant
>by 'existence.' But that is besides the point here. 

i've seen little evidence of ontological worries in texts about
quantumphysics, but perhaps you can enlighten me?

>And, although a scientist myself, I see no need to invest the word
>'scientific' with the exalted status that it seems to enjoy among
>non-scientists nowadays. Somehow, being scientific is equated with being
>certain. Even scientists would disagree with that perception.  

this is not what i meant. science is an activity, it's work. it consists of
creating, collecting, ordering and evualating information according to the
rules made up by the paradigm. even before post-modern times it's been
established that scientific conclusions are not certain at all (cf the work of
Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend, Latour etc.). scientists can be very impressed by
their own work or that of dear collegues, and say that they're quite certain,
but this generally doesn't last very long. science is sort of haunted by a
Rortyan irony these days. i've heard even of ironic theologians who have lost
all concern about the existence of god.

erik hoogcarspel

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