Science vs. Religion

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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 23rd, 2019, 11:38 am 

I never intended to "knock"; only to present an alternative point of view, based on many years' shallow reading. Sorry if my arcane sources put off the post-biblio generation.
But perhaps no origin hypotheses are required to carry on the theme of this thread.
I offer just one more, just a throw-away notion - with no disrespect to anyone else's.

Example of scientific thinking in early human:
Here is water. I want to take it with me but it runs through my fingers. Here is water, caught in an empty nutshell. I could carry water in a nutshell, but it's too little water. What else like a nutshell, only bigger? How about a gourd? I will go back to the encampment and hollow out a gourd shell to carry water.

Example of proto-religious thinking in early human:
Look at those seven very bright lights all clustered together. Wintertime, they were way over to the east side of the sky, and now they're nearly over the western edge. They travel together, year after year, along the same path. I wonder where they're going. I wonder who they are. Maybe they're exiles. Maybe they're looking for somebody. Maybe they're spirits. Hey, maybe they're the spirits of seven brothers. Yeah, that's it! Their father sent them out to hunt caribou, but they were lazy and got distracted, and....

No conflict.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on January 23rd, 2019, 12:21 pm 

Here is something I posted some time ago regarding something both relevant to the the OP and touching on the kind of questions being asked:

http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?nomobile=1&f=44&t=34474

True, these are my notes, but they are a condensed form of the first part of Eliade’s work “The Sacred and The Profane”. Eliade brings to mind certain behaviours and habits that are deemed religious and non-religious yet share a common human theme (framed as “sacred” and “profane”). The concept of the heirophant is regarded as the most prominent concept of the text from what I’ve seen written about it.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on January 24th, 2019, 7:22 am 

Yes Forest, I agree that hypotheticals of that nature are not worth discussing. If such a situation arose, I must admit that it would be difficult to find anything positive to say about them. Let's just hope that contributions have something positive about them.

Serpent, I do agree that a discussion about the origin of the notion of a soul (or whatever) is not the aim of this thread, but I liked your examples of possible scientific thinking by early humanoids.

Badger, I read your post and link with interest.

There is not much more I can contribute to this thread. It's simply headed Science v Religion, and I think members have explored most angles already.

I'll just leave it with the thought that scientists have never indulged in the type of violence recorded on this site -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_t ... nuary_2019. This link records events for this month only. You will notice that the main perpetrators of violence belong to one particular religion. Records are available on this site back to the 17th century.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on January 24th, 2019, 7:41 am 

Doogles -

I think scientists are just as usuceptible to poor moral judgement as others. They do at least have a foundation from which to reason their way out responsibility where the ideologically possessed religious nutcase does all they can to take the full weight of existence on their shoulders. I don’t find either extreme particularly attractive myself :)
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on January 24th, 2019, 1:18 pm 

This year - well, the last couple of decades - most of the mass violence originated in regions dominated by fundamentalist Islam, while fundamentalist Christians have directed their violence more at individuals. This is a function of political power relationships, rather than religious doctrine. How can you tell? The doctrines have both existed for centuries, but the pattern of violence is inconsistent. There is also some variation in whether racism/xenophobia as a motive is considered religious when recording an incident.

I'd be interested in seeing a parallel list of scientific [not secular, economic] extremism.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby edy420 on January 26th, 2019, 9:32 pm 

BadgerJelly » 16 Jan 2019, 20:09 wrote:Again though, I don’t think it makes sense to compare “religion” with “science”. To me it is more about how “Art” and “religion” rub against eqch other and how “science” and “philosophy” rub up against each other. At least philosophy and science share a similar pattern of thought.


To some extent. At least on the surface it seems reasonable to classify these perspectives into categories that are similar.

Science is just our artistic interpretation of Gods masterpiece. When we get down to the nitty gritty of science and physics, we realize that reality is a Pacaso painting. Particles don't obey the laws of science that we impose on them. They can be both in motion and motionless instantaneously, depending on how we observe them.

Real art, is left open to the interpretation of the viewer. Is that not what we do with reality, when observing it through the eye of science? As a group, we do come to many similar conclusions, but on an individual level, we all accept and deny different scientific analysis depending on our belief system. 10 scientists with the same education will not all have the same opinion. They all have their artistic flare so to speak, when it comes to observing reality.

Science is both a religion and an art form. Its religious in the way it is indoctrinated in children, and in the way it is upheld by many as absolute truth (like a deity). Its artistic in the way that we use it as a lens to observe reality.

For example the atoms in my hand. It takes a lot of effort to consider that my hand is 99% empty space, and it is a perception I could never invent without the knowledge of atomic theory. Science has given me this artistic perception for the observation of material existence. Art.

Or the scientific perception of color. I believe that grass is green, but again science gives me an artistic twist on this perception of reality. According to science, the grass is not green. It appears green because it absorbs every color except green, which reasonably means that grass is more red than it is green. Again, another perception of reality that I could not invent without the knowledge of scientific observation. Science has given me this artistic perception.

The four categories are not so dissimilar that they can be easily separated.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on January 27th, 2019, 7:09 am 

Edy -

Expressing “science” as belief system is deeply flawed. It is like comparing the mass of light to the mass fo the Sun. You can do it, but it’s pointless.

If someone likes death metal they don’t “believe in” death metal. They simply occupy a subjective space and choose to explore it or not.

I would say a lot of fault comes by some rather facile definitions of “religion” and what it means. To many they don’t care and therefore never venture to explain and define it in any analytic way. Even then, it’s such a broad category of human activity that some uses of the term “religion” look auite different to others.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby edy420 on February 1st, 2019, 7:01 pm 

religion
/rɪˈlɪdʒ(ə)n/Submit
noun
the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
"ideas about the relationship between science and religion"
synonyms: faith, belief, divinity, worship, creed, teaching, doctrine, theology; More
a particular system of faith and worship.
plural noun: religions
"the world's great religions"
a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
"consumerism is the new religion"


Absolute truth, is fictional. It is all powerful, omnipotent and all knowing. Many atheists worship science as if it were absolute truth, a deity.

Real scientists don’t say I believe the Big Bang is how we came to be. They say it’s most likely.
whether the universe had a beginning or not, we don’t even know that - Bryan Cox

To approach the Big Bang as absolute truth, is to be religious.

Back to my point about multiple theories on the Big Bang. A non-religious education would have open source information on all theories related to the Big Bang. I understand that our education system wants to cram as much information into us in as short a time as possible. Having to pick the most likely answers and teach them as absolute truth is a side effect of this nature. Regardless, religious protocol is what it is.

In short, teaching using religious methodology, is teaching religiously.

Measurement by physical means is a little different. Using our system of measure, we end up with a useful tool in day to day life. This is where science shines as a useful tool. But as we break down into non-useful micro measurements we see that even this understanding is flawed.

On a micro scale, 10m is not equal to 10m. Particularly if one measurement of 10m is in motion and the other not. 10m now is not the same 10m in half an hour or a trillion years. It’s all relative to the observer.

I’m going down another rabbit hole here so let me reiterate the similarities of our 4 concepts. Religion, art, science and philosophy.

A picture can paint 1000 words. Or, a 1000 word scientific theory can paint a picture. By reading and understanding Einstein’s version we get a vivid picture of something from nothingness, exploding into a universe. The most common picture amongst the general population. Tesla painted his own version as did Sir Roger Penrose with his infinitely re-expanding version.

Tesla, Einstein and Penrose are all artists in that they look at reality, using their painting as a way of interpretatng their expression. Einstein’s painting shows nothing before the Big Bang but Penrose painting shows an entire universe.

Scientists are like artists, in that their expression is interpreted by other like minded observers. People who don’t know art, can not interpret artistic expression. Likewise people who don’t know science can not interpret scientific expression.

If all scientists beleived in the exact same version of the Big Bang, and all bullet points on the subject were uncontested, only then do we have absolute truth.

But when modern day physicists can say things like we don’t even know for sure if the universe had a beginning, then it’s clear that even through science, the best we can understand reality is through artistic expression.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on February 1st, 2019, 10:47 pm 

Edy -

To approach the Big Bang as absolute truth, is to be religious.


Nope. The Big Bang doesn’t mean the “beginning” although many believe it is. It did happen though becasue we can literally SEE it. That is nothing like blind faith.

On a personal note I do tend to look at Art and Science as opposites of the same pole. Art being an attempt to outline what cannot be measured and science what can be measured.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby hyksos on February 2nd, 2019, 1:12 pm 

Serpent » January 22nd, 2019, 5:46 pm wrote:Only remember, all these modern guys are the product of imperial, urban industrial Christian cultures. It's difficult for them to imagine the perspective of peoples who had not yet invented monarchy or slavery or money or sin.


Forest_Dump » January 22nd, 2019, 7:08 pm wrote:Viable evidence of burial showing some concern for a soul or afterlife is much much later (since the evidence of association with neanderthals is sketchy at best).

It seems both of you are under the impression that once religion took hold, very quickly thereafter burial was performed with the decency, respect , and honorable traditions seen in contemporary funeral practices. Like religion was invented then light switch of funerals was set off.

I have some bad news for you. I invite you to read about the crypt system in the "British isles" prior to the advent of christianity there. This would be pagan funerary tradition by pre-english speakers in what is now England, Ireland and Scotland. You are going to be shocked (possibly appalled) by what was done to dead bodies and their resulting bones there.

In any case, this idea that a somber, clean, respect for the dead pre-dated Christianity (like neanderthals laying flowers on the graves of the fallen) -- well you're gonna find out that is not true. It wasn't even true in northern Europe. In short, they were doing some pretty weird witchcraft-y /seance-y stuff with skeletons and skulls there.


So yeah -- respect for the dead and somber funerals and cemeteries -- those were actually brought on by Christianity. If you believe religion existed prior to Christianity (and I believe you all think this from reading your posts) , then no, there is no correlation between respect-for-the-dead and religion.


Forest_Dump » January 22nd, 2019, 7:08 pm wrote:Religious beliefs might also come from trying G to understand some natural phenomenon like lightening, fire, earthquakes, etc. Possibly also some disease controlling as viewing sickness etc as a result of witchcraft which was probably the closest they came to considering religion for social control.

I went to a public high school in the midwest of the United States. In a Greek Mythology class, they kept emphasizing that the pantheon of multiple gods we were reading about was not religion. "Not religion! Not religion!" : they kept driving this home to us. Instead, we were to read these stories as early attempts at science. So for example, the seasons are explained "scientifically" as some god punishing a maiden-of-harvest by making her enter the underworld every 6 months causing things to be colder.

Merely a few years after leaving high school I was already finding the claim weak, if not entirely foolish. I feel like the curriculum was being skewed maybe because I was in an overtly bible-belty region, and sensitive political topics were being skirted.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on February 2nd, 2019, 1:56 pm 

hyksos » February 2nd, 2019, 12:12 pm wrote:[Only remember, all these modern guys are the product of imperial, urban industrial Christian cultures. It's difficult for them to imagine the perspective of peoples who had not yet invented monarchy or slavery or money or sin.]
It seems both of you are under the impression that once religion took hold, very quickly thereafter burial was performed with the decency, respect , and honorable traditions seen in contemporary funeral practices. Like religion was invented then light switch of funerals was set off.

How did you reverse-engineer that impression from what I wrote? I'm not at all concerned with prehistoric burial rites. Just saying that the anthropologists of the 19th and 20th centuries were looking for early signs of their own concept of religion (not mine) and pretty much all they had available to go on were human remains that had been preserved, by design or accident.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 2nd, 2019, 2:13 pm 

There does seem to be a very confusing set of ideas in that post so while I try to give more thought to some of that, I will try to clarify a few things.

I cannot really guess what definition of religion you were taught in the mid west, it doesn't look very familiar to me. Most of the formal definitions I have come across are anthropological in origin and so include a lot more kinds of religion than seem to be contained in what you are considering. So, for example, in my view christianity would of course be instantly lumped with Judaism and Muslim as one kind of monotheism. A slightly broader lumping would indeed include polytheism such as practised by Hindus the classic Greeks and Romans and Aztecs and Mayans. All these have certain features in common including believing that deities are human-like and all are associated with what we would call state level societies and the religion works to reinforce the social and political order. A belief in an afterlife works typically to reinforce behaviour that benefits the society and punish behaviour that does not.

Cultures that were not state-level, chiefdoms or "big man" (aka transegalitarian), i.e., what are or were known as egalitarian tribal or band level societies, did not typically have these kinds of religions, at least until they were missionized (which granted began at least 1000 years ago, for example with Muslim slavery in eastern Africa). In these kinds of societies, which would account for 100% prior to the end of the ice age, domestication of plants and animals and sedentary towns, etc., there is/was much less concern with divine reward or punishment, probably because people were persuaded by social conditions and consensus building, etc. And there was much less concern about inheritance so ancestors didn't really play a role, etc. Ghosts, etc., might play variable roles, good and bad, but they could be dealt with and often just sent away. For the most part, dead bodies were really just potentially bad or dangerous things that needed to be disposed of.

But even this level of belief probably evolved over time. When people were more fully mobile, there is little reason to think that there was much concern about the disposal of bodies unless people died near a site that would be returned to. In other words, even though we know these people had various kinds of beliefs in various kinds of supernatural powers, etc., there is no reason to suspect there was any kind of belief in a soul, life after death, etc. Rather religion was about explaining things like weather patterns, lightening, the movement of game and disease, etc., which was often explained as witchcraft, etc. So, IMHO, religion probably evolved as people sought to manipulate events and processes that had a direct impact on their daily lives.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on February 2nd, 2019, 9:38 pm 

Forest -

What did you think of Inside the Neolithic mind then? Don’t you think certain states of consciousnesd play a role? Obviously I believe they do very strongly; more so the more I look.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 2nd, 2019, 11:41 pm 

I actually think there was very little difference between neanderthals and anatomically modern Homo sapiens at the time in terms of cognition and intelligence, etc. While I do think both may have had some kind of religion, etc., I am not convinced by the arguments around neanderthal burials. Hunting magic, attempts to manipulate other aspects of the world around, something special about the Venus figurines, sure. But none of these things necessarily means a belief in a soul or afterlife. As I said, more likely to me trying to deal with the world they were confronted by.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby BadgerJelly on February 3rd, 2019, 1:26 am 

I was referring to brain states brought on by stress relating to numerous “religious” traditions - fasting, isolation, trance dancing etc.,. To me the evidence is stacked up as showing something innately human breaking through into human culture in the form of rough interpretations that manifest as powerful narratives and feature in religious practise and doctrines.

Of course I am looking at this as a “foundation” of modern religion (modern meaning within the several thousand years). Anyone who’s had a altered state of consciousness knows the overwhelming feeling and how it can easily be express as something “other” (ie. God, spirit or some such term).
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on February 3rd, 2019, 2:32 am 

Sure, people have these weird spiritual experiences, and sometimes they tell other people.
But that encounter with the numinous or the void is unique, personal. Even if it's coherent enough to be transposed into narrative, it doesn't form a religion. It doesn't declare taboos or offer blandishments or dictate commandments.
All that happen after the mushroomhead tells the chief about his experience and the chief tells his advisor, and they start thinking about how such a phenomenon might be used to discipline the tribe.

Something intervened between the vision and the canon - something rational and deliberate.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on February 3rd, 2019, 6:24 am 

My working hypothesis on what I imagined to be a logical reason for early hominids to believe in a body and a soul (or whatever you wish to call the latter) was outlined in an earlier post, but received no support. That's okay.

But I notice that Forest Dump said -- "For the most part, dead bodies were really just potentially bad or dangerous things that needed to be disposed of." I find this a surprising thing for an archaeologist to say, because my limited (maybe 'wide' compared with others) scope of reading on archaeology leaves me with the impression that the majority of descriptions of burials indicate some type of ceremonial procedure was adopted in the burial in anticipation of a future life.

My close association with dead farm animals commenced in the 1950s, at which time, the bodies of dead farm animals were just simply towed by a horse or tractor to a hollow in the ground and dumped -- downwind of course, and this was in farms of average size of 100 acres. I've never heard of humans being disposed of this way archaeologically.

Our Australian aboriginal culture goes back at least 48000 years. This site -- http://www.indigenousaustralia.info/cul ... onies.html -- claims that "It is believed that when a person dies, their spirit goes back to the Dreaming Ancestors in the land if the correct ceremonies rituals are conducted. Special dances and wailing songs are seen and heard in times of death or mourning periods." The deceased are just not dragged off to a hole in the ground.

Indigenous American Cultures (which go back 12000 or more years) -- http://www.deathreference.com/Me-Nu/Nat ... igion.html -- "Most Native American tribes believed that the souls of the dead passed into a spirit world and became part of the spiritual forces that influenced every aspect of their lives. Many tribes believed in two souls: one that died when the body died and one that might wander on and eventually die. Burial customs varied widely from tribe to tribe. Indians disposed of their dead in a variety of ways. Arctic tribes, for example, simply left their dead on the frozen ground for wild animals to devour. The ancient mound-building Hopewell societies of the Upper Midwest, by contrast, placed the dead in lavishly furnished tombs. Southeastern tribes practiced secondary bone burial. They dug up their corpses, cleansed the bones, and then reburied them. The Northeast Iroquois, before they formed the Five Nations Confederation in the seventeenth century, saved skeletons of the deceased for a final mass burial that included furs and ornaments for the dead spirits' use in the afterlife."

That's enough for one post. It's not my area of interest, but I feel confident that I could find evidence of spirituality in the archaeological studies of most cultures. It seems logical to me.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 3rd, 2019, 7:07 am 

Badger

Okay, now I get your point and yes that is probably a big factor. There definitely do seem to be commonalities in what people do experience during altered states of consciousness and these commonalities I would guess can account for much that is common in religions universally. And so we get to the works of Eliade and Levi-Strauss.

Doodles

We might well start to find evidence of deliberate burials by the Upper Paleolithic so say 20000 years ago. I am not 100% sure of that but to avoid an unnecessary debate...... Nonetheless, evidence of burial into the earliest Holocene would not be universal as as many or even most human remains in these times are not in contexts that would imply deliberate burial like we see in more recent sites. But I would say one key point is that between the time we see the first evidence of possible religion or belief in something we could call a supernatural, say 200,000 years ago +/-, and the first appearance of deliberate burial, say 10,000 to 50,000 (?), there is quite a gap. However there is lots of room for debate there. There have been arguments made about deliberate disposal of bodies in a couple of well-known caves, one may even be pre Homo. And we need to somehow take into account issues of sampling. Yes archaeologists love digging into obvious burial sites (well not everywhere as much now for political reasons) because they are often easier to find, preservation tends to be better (hypothetically it would be tough to find old bodies left on the ice because sometimes the ice melts or a bear happens along...), they exhibit patterned behaviour with cool stuff and because burials can address the kinds of questions archaeologists and the cultures that produce archaeologists, are interested in (who can resist looking at a picture of a skull? The only thing cooler is a skull with gold and some wild symbols. Well actually if given a choice I would almost certainly pick the Hopewell burial - those definitely can be wild).
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Lomax on February 3rd, 2019, 8:40 am 

Very good, all. For some reason the forum has subscribed me to this thread. I haven't read Coyne (and I hope that won't render my contribution useless) but I think I can offer an example of a difference in faith-based epistemology and empiricism. It comes from Bertrand Russell (in his Why I Am Not A Christian):

Bertrand Russell wrote:Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: "The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance." You would say: "Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment"; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe.

I don't know whether anybody who is seriously interested in philosophy still argues that the scientific method is free from practical assumptions and pragmatic concerns. But we can - without necessarily taking a side - see that its pragmatics are different. When Morrissey sings "there is another world; there is a better world; there must be" he means because he wants there to be. The scientist who takes as a null hypothesis that there is not, or that we must pass over in silence, is doing so because she wants a theory that's not overcomplicated, coheres with our better-knowns, and doesn't conflict with the results of the experiments we can formulate. These are in fact practical preferences, they're just different ones to those of the person of religious faith, and so the conflict is one of values as well as of epistemology. Serpent said something similar, more concisely.

This is a different question, really, to the question of whether the concrete claims of religion clash with the concrete claims of science. Can a person turn water into wine? Perhaps there is a study that finds he can, and another one who finds that he cannot. The point for me is that we are not going to demonstrate the answer just by following our feelings.

And Edy, you misrepresent the difference between atheists and antitheists. It is not about degrees of certainty. Quine thought there was no god but it would be nice if there was one. We say: no it wouldn't.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on February 3rd, 2019, 11:24 am 

It's that gap holds the secret.
Forest_Dump -- But I would say one key point is that between the time we see the first evidence of possible religion or belief in something we could call a supernatural, say 200,000 years ago +/-, and the first appearance of deliberate burial, say 10,000 to 50,000 (?), there is quite a gap. However there is lots of room for debate there.

Of course, nomadic peoples would have no permanent burial ground. Even if they buried their dead with solemn respect, they wouldn't put markers we recognize, so those bodies are scattered all over Africa and Eurasia, well hidden from archeologists. Or they might have a whole big religious ceremony and leave a body out on a rock for the sacred vultures and we'd never find a trace. Sea-faring people would throw them in the ocean. Then again, you don't need any sense of the supernatural to shrink from the idea of jackals tearing at the breast that once suckled you. We have no way of telling, from the vast majority of fragments that turn up by accident, the circumstances of their disposal or how their kin felt about it.

There have been arguments made about deliberate disposal of bodies in a couple of well-known caves, one may even be pre Homo.

So do elephants. Again, the motives are 90% guess-work, based on our own social mores. Doogles insists that witnessing a death triggers a train of logical conjecture. Most of us coddled post-industrial westerners see very few dead people and make a fuss over them. I happen to have seen a lot of dead people, and they inspired no awe, no reverence, no wonder as to where their anima went. They're cold and waxy pale, not unlike sides of beef. (I'm vegetarian for a reason.) We all project our own attitudes onto the evidence before us; the sketchier the evidence, the more room for imagination.

The same is true in all branches of science, of course. And that's productive: it's leaps of imagination that prompt fresh avenues of inquiry. Once an inquiry begins, though, you have to put your own narrative on hold until you've collected the objective data.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on February 4th, 2019, 7:00 am 

Forest, I liked your last post. It seemed to be a well-balanced opinion on early burials.

I have to agree with Serpent that nomadic people did not have established burial places. But there are records of nomadic burials and cremations by early Australian colonists. See https://www.aboriginalheritage.tas.gov. ... al-burials -- It's a Tasmanian Government publication -- This is a partial extract -- "In general, Aboriginal burials were less than one metre depth in the ground. They were more likely around the sea coast and along rivers where the sand and soil were softer. Some reports suggest the person’s body was placed in a crouching position. The burial place was sometimes covered with a large flat stone. In some places several burials are located close to each other. Cremations were more common than burials. A cremation is when a person’s body is burned. Branches and grasses were gathered together and formed into a structure about one metre high. This is called a pyre. The person’s body was placed in a sitting position on top of the pyre before being covered by more branches and grasses. Sometimes it faced the east. The cremation pyre could be on open ground, inside a hut, in hollow logs or hollow trees. There appear to be different practices among the tribes around the island."

In spite of the fact that these were not elaborate burial sites, the ritual ceremonies associated with the burials and the spiritual afterlife were somewhat elaborate. It seems that the absence of elaborate burials is not necessarilly evidence of the absence of spiritualism.

Evidence for a ritual burial is dated at 40,000 years in the case of Mungo Man in Australia -- which could suggest that a belief in spiritualism has been around for quite a long time -- see http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/ ... 788032.htm. -- " The body had been laid out in great ceremony on its back, with knees bent and hands positioned at the groin with the fingers interlocked. Next to the body were the remains of fire. The body had been sprinkled with red ochre, in the earliest known example of such a sophisticated and artistic burial practice. This ritual burial aspect of the discovery has been particularly significant to Indigenous Australians, since it indicates that certain cultural traditions have existed on the Australian continent for much longer than previously thought."
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on February 4th, 2019, 11:58 am 

We can see how they were buried. What we only guess at is why .
Fact: A body is found with knees bent and fingers interlaced, with a sprinkling of red ochre on top, then 3' or stones and earth.
Conjecture: with great ceremony; significant ritual aspect
Question: Do we know that he didn't die clutching his groin and wasn't found in advanced rigor mortis, then buried right away? Do we know the ocher wasn't considered an antidote to gonorrhea?

I conjecture that piling on stones is to deter scavengers - as we always do when burying pets. Cremation would serve the same purpose.
I'm not saying there isn't a spiritual or full-blown religious aspect to these burials. I'm only saying that superficial similarities to our own customs are not conclusive evidence of the same motivation.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 4th, 2019, 2:40 pm 

I will address a couple of points before heading out into the blizzard. The Mungo burial was of some interest to me some years ago because of the dating. From what I recall the body was found dead on top of a surface that was dated about 40,000 years ago but it was debated as to whether it could be claimed that it was within that layer. In other words it could much much younger. At least one cautious critic argued that the body and other artifacts etc., around it could have been coincidental associations that were later buried by drifting sand. Either way, of course, it ends up being kind of isolated in time and space and we need to be cautious about arguing it is in any way typical. With that kind of small sample size it might have been preserved (and found?) because it was so unusual.

But still, through time, it does appear that mobile hunter gatherers did eventually establish burial grounds and ideas about certain places having supernatural specialness. Places on the seasonal round such as where fish could be counted on during spawning, etc., were ceRainey places where cemeteries and later even burial mounds became established if for no other reason that people would aggregate there year after year. Ditto for places where wild rice or other seasonal resources could be counted on. Belief in supernatural power or significance would help establish and explain why those places are important and, as populations grew and control became important, linking those kinds of places with specific groups of people through belief in ancestors and ghosts, etc., would help establish a kind of territory.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Serpent on February 4th, 2019, 2:59 pm 

Would you not expect to find more remains in places where a people spent protracted periods - like a regular fishing season, plus time to smoke and pack the catch, or an annual harvest? And if you have dead bodies near a habitation, you'd want to bury them - if only to prevent the dogs dragging human arms into camp, and because they smell bad. This doesn't necessarily mean that dead people were confined to that place. You wouldn't find the ones that died en route and were left in the forest or a lake.

However, I can readily imagine that, after a while, the burial site would be considered sacred because the ancestors were there. Susceptible people would start having 'uncanny experiences' in that vicinity, telling stories, which inflate over time. The old would desire to return there to die, and maybe even ask to be buried with the bones of their kin. I can imagine the belief system growing up around the burial ground, elaborated more with every generation.
Last edited by Serpent on February 4th, 2019, 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 4th, 2019, 3:43 pm 

Serpent

I think you nailed it.
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby doogles on February 5th, 2019, 6:58 am 

Forest_Dump “The Mungo burial was of some interest to me some years ago because of the dating. From what I recall the body was found dead on top of a surface that was dated about 40,000 years ago but it was debated as to whether it could be claimed that it was within that layer. In other words it could much much younger. At least one cautious critic argued that the body and other artifacts etc., around it could have been coincidental associations that were later buried by drifting sand. Either way, of course, it ends up being kind of isolated in time and space and we need to be cautious about arguing it is in any way typical.”

As a matter of interest, Forest, the original dating appeared to be 62,000 years. One of those websites I cited in my last post indicated that a wide group of researchers have now reached consensus on the dating of Mungo Man -- http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/ ... 788032.htm. I quote – “The research team came up with the age of 40,000 years by using a technique called Optically Stimulating Luminescence (OSL). This relies on the fact that sand grains have an internal 'clock' that is reset when exposed to sunshine. The grains would have been reset when they were disturbed to bury the remains. "The basic method used to date the age of layers in the sand is when they last saw sunlight, the age of their burial," Bowler told ABC Science Online. Four samples were dated using OSL and two laboratories cross-checked each other's work. They both came up with identical results. "So that ensures the validity of the analytical processes," said Bowler. The group took sections from the burial site and analysed their mineralogy to determine where the sand originally came from, if it was a beach derived sand or blown from the floor of the lakes when they were dry. "In that context we see a lot of desert dust, which is a major trend towards aridity," he said. The analysis involved a multidisciplinary team from the universities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Wollongong, and Canberra's Australian National University, as well as Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation and the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service.”
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Re: Science vs. Religion

Postby Forest_Dump on February 5th, 2019, 12:19 pm 

If I may, I would like to review the topic of the Mungo remains as an example of a fuzzy thread where various debates seem to lead off in different tangents, which I might be guilty of having taken, and distracting us from the OP.

As I recall, perhaps not clearly, the Mungo remains were initially of interest because of possible Archaic features and their possible age. The Archaic features opened debates on how these kinds of features were to be measured and interpreted which in turn opened debates about race and racism as well as first populating of new continents since this was before, for example, the peopling of the new world. That open ocean had to be crossed additionally opened topics on the Evolution of technology (i.e., the question of water craft). The subsequent discovery of the Flores "hobbits" has made this thread fuzzier.

I definitely don't have any vested interest in the dating and the information Doogles offers is new to me and even of some potential interest - if this new technology works I have an early site it would be interesting to apply this to. But I am also cautious because I know it may take decades to sort out technical problems. Even with radio carbon dating we seem to be still learning new stuff ranging from variation in atmospheric isotopes to the effects of rivers or ocean water with old carbon to associating dates with things of interest. To use a cliche, not always as simple as previously thought.

Whether Mungo is 40,000+ years old of 100 years old, there is the question of whether it was a burial, i.e., a deliberate internment and whether it is associated with other things around it. Given the confidence levels associated with all of our dating methods, there would be no help there because even with something as recent as 100 years old we would often have difficulty distinguishing events that could be a year apart. Sometimes it doesn't really matter but sometimes it does and the field methods used were just not subtle enough to be 100% sure and/or the conclusive data just wasn't there.

Whether or not the remains were associated and deliberately buried, there are the questions of how typical it is of the population and what it really means. Was Mungo one of a kind and that is why it was preserved and discovered? And what does it tell us about the beliefs? Arguments could be offered that a burial was something about respecting a soul or fear of ghosts but it could also be something different ranging from Mungo was a special individual because of a genetic thing or something unusual happened like being hit by lightning, cursed by witchcraft, bit by a snake or inflicted by some scary disease. Or, yeah, they just didn't want to see some friend being eaten by maggots or dogs that day.

I am very aware and sensitive new and different kinds of arguments and attempts to go in new directions. The Archaeology of the Dream Time was a very provocative book when it came out and I have read many others on Australia ranging from Hayden to Lourandos. There is definitely lots of room for many debates and new ways to learn. But we need to be cautious too especially when dealing with potentially fuzzy threads.
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