Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) My whole argument with you is that not everything can be explained by reason or the scientific method.
(MB) While this is true, anything that involves facts or claims of existence can (and, indeed, *must*) be explainable by those methods.

(R) You obviously disagree with that because you can't give me a single comment without bringing up the fact that it cannot be proven. The nature of science is that nothing can be proven, only disproven.
(MB) This confuses two different things -- scientific theories and positive existential claims.
    In science, the vast majority of theories can not be proven. At best, they survive until tested again. If they continue to pass tests, they continue to gain adherence. But, there's always the chance (however small) that a new test or observation may provide a damning piece of evidence that will either overturn the theory or require it to be revised.
    Positive existential claims, however, are another story. Here we have nothing more than the statement, "X exists", where "X" is anything that the claimant wishes to propose -- to include unicorns, flying saucers, Bigfoot, Atlantis, Planet X, leprechauns, or God. Positive existential claims can be proven merely by providing incontrovertible evidence of the thing in question. They can never be disproven since the claimant can always propose another scenario under which the thing in question might exist. This, however, places the burden of proof upon the side which upholds the positive existential claim.

(R) Religion cannot be proven, at least not in your terms, and neither can it be disproven. You cannot prove that something does not exist, or do you think you can? Until you can disprove the existence of anything supernatural, your arguments against religion simply mean nothing in a rational sense.
(MB) Oh, but they do! See the above paragraph on the differences between theories of science and claims of existence. To argue otherwise is to say that one must believe in anything (no matter how far-fetched or unsupported) if it hasn't been disproven. That is clearly illogical. If we are to believe a claim that something exists, there needs to be some amount of supporting evidence for it or the claim can never be considered anything other than groundless speculation.

(R) I do not even consider myself Christian or a subscribing member of any other specific religion, but I see the value of religion, or should I say of spirituality?
(MB) I see some value in many of the lessons taught by religion -- although it's clear that the same lessons can also be taught by non-religious systems. Why not just teach those lessons without dragging in the supernatural baggage? Must people be implanted with something to fear before they'll heed the lessons?

(R) While organized religions definitely have their problems, and I agree with you on all aspects of that topic, I still believe that there is a 'supernatural' aspect of our world and that it is ridiculous for us to think we can know and understand everything.
(MB) Why? While I'd certainly agree that there are more raw facts in the universe than we could ever hope to learn, it is also clear that those facts are all manifestations of a basic set of physical laws. Once we know those laws, we can use them to understand anything. We've made great strides towards that goal and I have little reason to think that we won't achieve it. I certainly don't see where there is any need to appeal to the supernatural for explanations of anything whatsoever.

(R) However, before you get all excited about that, I do believe that we should try to understand and explain what we can, I do not believe people should be so "satisfied" with religion that they should ignore the human quest for knowledge.
(MB) Absolutely correct!

(R) I do not think that religion should be forced upon anyone and I do not believe that any religion is 'better' than another.
(MB) Again, absolutely correct!

(R) I simply believe that there is more to this world than meets the eye, I believe that humans have a soul or atman or whatever you want to call it, and I believe that there is a higher good that humans are striving for. I do not know the specifics, although many religions pretend to know, I merely know what I feel and sense.
(MB) So long as humans are emotional beings, we will always have those feelings. I suspect that much of it stems from an unwillingness to accept the finality of death or some discontent with the notion that Man may not be the most important thing in the universe. Those are not easy things for people to come to terms with.

(R) I know that does not fit into your scientific mind but there is nothing I can do about that. I believe in it, you don't, and no amount of science is going to be able to convince me that there is nothing else.
(MB) I believe that I'm one with the universe and kin to all things within it. Therefore, I should have the same importance and eventual fate as anything else. My life has meaning since I am an integral part of the whole. Everything is as understandable as the amount of effort I'm willing to make to understand it. There is no need for me to appeal to anything else for satisfaction or peace. The universe is more than appealing enough.

(R) I thought you might be interested to read an essay I wrote for a world religions class this semester, since you seem to have a misunderstanding of what I know and where I personally stand.
(MB) I've read your essay and found it to be quite interesting. With your permission, I'd like to publish it in a future reply along with a few of my own comments.

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